Where to start with healthy eating: The Plate Method

Updated: Nov 26, 2019


MyPlate is the "new" version of the Food Pyramid you might remember from the mid 2000s. It is a nutrition tool developed by the US Department of Agriculture on what a balanced diet for Americans ought to be. The Plate is broken down into 5 food groups: Vegetables, Fruit, Protein, Grains and Dairy. There isn't much info on the plate itself because it leaves room for specific food choices up to you. This plate method is the perfect place to start when you're working on getting healthy.


Vegetables

Vegetables combined with fruit should take up about half of your plate. In general, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered as 1 serving from the Vegetable group. Aim for at least three servings of veggies each day (five would be awesome!). Vegetables are an excellent source of all sorts of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are the things that give veggies their color-- more research to come. Because vegetables are complex carbohydrates, our bodies can use the energy from them from a longer period of time (around 4 hours or until the next meal). They're low in calories for the volume too because of their water and fiber content. Because of all those benefits, vegetables hold the largest portion of your plate.


Fruits

Fruits make up just less than one-quarter of your plate. In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or 1/3 cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 serving from the Fruit Group. Aim for at least 2 servings of fruit per day. Like vegetables, fruits are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and soluble fiber. Fruits contain more simple carbohydrates than vegetables-- this makes them awesome for a quick burst of energy.


Protein

Protein sources include animal sources such as meat, poultry, eggs fish, and shellfish. Plants have protein too: beans, nuts, seeds, soy, and peas. When choosing protein foods, go lean. Keep the fat you find in the meats as minimal as possible.

One ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 serving equivalent from the Protein Foods Group. Aim for approximately 7-8 servings of 1 oz protein portions per day.


Starches

Diary foods contain calcium, p hosphorous, and vitamin D. Dairy foods also contain a unique blend of carbohydrates and protein and make an awesome mid-day snack or pairing to any meal. All fluid milk products and many foods made from milk plus calcium-fortified soy-milk are considered part of this food group. Choose either fat-free or low-fat (1%) dairy products. Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter are not part of this group-- they're considered fats.heir shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. Some examples of refined grain one slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or 1/3 cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal can be considered as 1 serving from the Starch Group. Whole grains are generally more filling than their refined grain counterparts because of the higher fiber content. So even though they may have the same calorie content, choose whole wheat pasta over regular. Starchy vegetables include potato, sweet potato, corn, peas, winter squash, and beans. A 1/2 cup portion of starchy vegetables is equivalent to one serving from the Starch Group. Aim for around 6 servings of starches each day and make at least half of them whole!


Dairy

Diary foods contain calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D. Dairy foods also contain a unique blend of carbohydrates and protein and make an awesome mid-day snack or pairing to any meal. All fluid milk products and many foods made from milk plus calcium-fortified soy-milk are considered part of this food group. Choose either fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) dairy products. Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter are not part of this group-- they're considered fats.

In general, 1 cup of milk, yogurt, or soy milk, 1 ounce of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese can be considered as 1 serving from the Dairy Group. Aim for three servings a day.


What's missing from the plate?

Fats & Oils, Water, and Exercise!


Fats & Oils

Choose fats that are liquid at room temperature, also known as unsaturated fats. Fats also occur naturally in the foods we already eat, so you don't need to add too much extra. Examples of healthy fats include olive oil, canola or vegetable oil, fats found in nuts, seeds, and fish.


Water

Water exists in most foods, but of course the best source of water is water itself. Aim for at least 8 cups of water a day to keep hydrated and your body functioning well!


Exercise

Physical exercise is an important component for a healthy lifestyle. Aim for 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week.

To check out more info on the original MyPlate check out USDA's site!

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