The past 50 or more years have brought a multitude of ways to teach and reinforce the concepts of healthy eating. When I was in the elementary grades the ‘carrot lady’ would come and visit our school lunchroom in Washington, at least once a year. Her message was one that stuck in my memory; “eat first what you don’t like and then what you do like, and your plate will be clean.” The 4-H foods and nutrition project introduced us to the “4-4-3-2” concept which corresponded with the number of servings of the four major food groups. A horizontal and then vertical food pyramid put more emphasis on the foods that provided a foundation for our diet and reminded us to use fats, oils and added sugars sparingly. Just last month a simple plate was unveiled as the new icon for healthy eating. Let’s take a closer look at what it really means…
The “choose MyPlate” logo features a plate with color coded sections for vegetables, fruits, grains and protein. A circle to simulate a glass of milk represents a serving of dairy. When you visit the chooseMyPlate.gov web site you will find many great resources at your fingertips. I took a few minutes the other day to plug in my information and print my own daily food plan. The site asks for you to share your age, gender, height, weight, and activity level. It figures the amount of grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and protein foods that should be consumed daily. My calorie intake of 2400 is suggested and it is noted that I should be physically active for at least 150 minutes each week. Other items shared on my personalized print out include my daily allowance for oils is 7 teaspoons, calories from solid fats and added sugars should be limited to 330 calories a day, and sodium intake should be held under 2300 mg a day.
One reminder that seems to be repeated often as we begin to learn about MyPlate is to enjoy your food but eat less. Take the time to fully enjoy your food as you eat it. Eating too fast or when your attention is elsewhere may lead to eating too many calories. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues before, during and after meals. Use them to recognize when to eat and when you have had enough. Another tip is to avoid oversize portions. An easy way to accomplish this is to use a smaller plate, bowl, and glass. Portion out food before you eat. When eating out, choose a smaller size option, share a dish or take home part of your meal.
As we begin to learn more about how MyPlate can help us make healthier choices we need to fill half of our plate with fruits and vegetables. This tip encourages eating a rainbow of colors. Traditionally these foods are low in calories yet high in fiber and antioxidants. Making half your grains whole is a slogan that bears repeating. Substituting whole-grain products for a refined product is easier than you might think. Add whole-wheat bread, brown rice and whole grain pasta to your grocery list.
I will continue to share tips from the choose MyPlate materials in my column during the weeks ahead. Do your part by visiting the web site and print your daily food plan. Consider making gradual changes for a healthier lifestyle.
Donna Krug is the Family and Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. You may reach her at (620)793-1910 or email@example.com.