MyPlate
MyPlate is the government's primary food group symbol and is an easy-to-understand visual cue used to show Americans how to incorporate the recommendations of 2010 Dietary Guidelines into every meal. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture)

March is National Nutrition Month. This annual campaign, sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), reinforces the importance of good nutrition and physical activity. The academy also helps consumers understand how to implement the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The theme for this year, "Get Your Plate in Shape," encourages Americans to return to the basics of healthy eating by consuming the recommended amounts of food essential for performance and health.

This year's theme coincides with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate, which replaced MyPyramid in June 2011. MyPlate is the government's primary food group symbol and is an easy-to-understand visual cue used to show Americans how to incorporate the recommendations of 2010 Dietary Guidelines into every meal. MyPlate uses the familiar image of a place setting for a meal to illustrate the five food groups. The plate is divided into four sections (fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins) and includes a glass representing dairy products.

Simple key messages of MyPlate include:

Balance your calories by managing calories in with calories out. Enjoy your food, but eat less. Eating fast or when distracted may cause you to eat more calories than you need. Take the time to fully enjoy your meal by eating slowly. Downsize your portion sizes by using a smaller plate, bowl or cup. When eating out, choose smaller-sized options, share with a buddy or save part of the meal for later. Include physical activity into your daily routine; this too helps you balance calories.

Choose foods to eat more often. Eat foods that are nutrient-rich more often, and make them the basis for meals and snacks. These foods contain health-promoting nutrients such as potassium, calcium, vitamin D and fiber. Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk and dairy products. Fill half your plate with a variety of colorful fruits and veggies (to include beans and peas). Make at least half your grains whole grains by substituting whole-grain foods for refined (switching to whole-wheat bread from white bread or brown rice instead of white rice).

Choose foods to eat less often. Foods that are high in solid fats, added sugars and salt should be used as occasional treats, not everyday foods. To reduce salt in your diet, use the Nutrition Facts label to compare sodium in foods, and choose lower sodium versions of foods such as soup, bread, frozen and other convenient foods. Drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, energy drinks and sport drinks, which are a major source of added sugar and calories in the American diet. Consume smaller portions and substitute with water or other unsweetened beverages.

To help you get your plate in shape, check out the Super Tracker, an online tool where you can get a personalized nutrition and activity plan. Find the SuperTracker and more information about MyPlate at www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Page last updated Thu March 1st, 2012 at 00:00