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Get started with MyPlate

Posted 8/21/2015

Historically, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has provided consumers with dietary guidance dating back more than 100 years. The Food Guidance System provides food-based guidance for Americans translating science into a total diet that meets nutrient needs from food sources and aims to moderate or limit dietary components often consumed in excess. The Food Guide Pyramid (1992-2005) was one of the most recognized and used food guides in history. However, qualitative research indicated that specific knowledge about the Food Guide Pyramid was limited.1 From this research, USDA determined that the pyramid graphic should be simplified and developed MyPyramid in 2005. The MyPyramid icon was intended to direct consumers to MyPyramid.gov for information and resources. Over time, confusion arose over which pyramid graphic should be used. There was also concern that people had become so familiar with the graphic that they were no longer paying attention to its message. Therefore, the new food icon, MyPlate was developed to refocus attention on healthy eating.

MyPlate, released in June 2011, is the most recent form of federal nutrition guidance for consumers. MyPlate was designed to get Americans to think about making healthy food choices and building a healthy plate at mealtimes, and it directs people to the ChooseMyPlate website to learn more. The graphic is not intended to change consumer behavior alone. MyPlate illustrates the five food groups using a familiar mealtime visual, a plate.2 The MyPlate graphic suggests the proportion of food groups in relation to each other. It simply suggests, “Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables,” or “A fourth of the plate can be protein foods.” The graphic does not suggest amounts of foods to eat from each food group. To learn more about that, the graphic directs consumers to the website, ChooseMyPlate.

The ChooseMyPlate.gov website features practical information that Americans can use to build healthier diets. ChooseMyPlate.gov focuses on three key areas: Balancing Calories, Foods to Increase and Foods to Decrease. Within each area, ChooseMyPlate offers tips to help consumers make better food choices.

Balancing Calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less
  • Avoid oversized portions

Foods to Increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
  • Make at least half your grains, whole grains

Foods to Reduce

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals—and choose foods with lower numbers
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks

You can find printable tip sheets, learn about the food groups, get a personalized eating plan, get weight loss information, get help planning a healthy menu and find sample menus, and find trustworthy links related to the topic of health and nutrition.

Email or call Susan Lednicky, Nutritionist with Clark County Cooperative Extension, at 702-257-5548.

1 U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, Development of 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Consumer Messages and New Food Icon, Executive Summary of Formative Research, June 2011.

2U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, Getting Started with MyPlate, June 2011. Accessed July 14, 2011. Available at ChooseMyPlate.

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