The food pyramid is out, and My Plate is in. This change is part of Michelle Obama’s program against child obesity, and is a welcomed new tool in that arsenal, given the confusing incarnations of the food pyramid in recent years.
What I like about the plate is that it places less emphasis on meat and seafood as protein sources, at least in the plate graphic itself. Rather than discuss what I don’t like, I’ll refer you to two Los Angeles Times opinion articles that do a good job of summing up how it could be better. This article discusses the disparities between what Americans usually eat and what the plate suggests, or should suggest, we eat. This one does a good job of presenting the opinions of others and their reasoning behind them.
How do children, the primary target, react to My Plate? I printed out the coloring sheet available here for my daughters. Once I clarified which foods were grains and which ones were proteins, my 6 year old colored her plate. As you can see, she already knows how to fill her plate with healthy choices based on the categories provided on the plate. You may have noticed she changed the glass of dairy to orange juice; probably not the best choice, given all the sugar, but a good source of vitamin C. I could write for days about why my children drink very little cow’s milk, but I’ll save that for another post. In any case, I think kids will adjust easily to lessons about what to put on a plate at each meal using this graphic. If you try it with your family, let me know how it turns out.
If you’ve explored the web site, you’ll see the new food groups for My Plate: grains, vegetables, fruits, protein, dairy. Here’s the list of food groups I teach to my students, based on the research I’ve done on eating for health: green leafies, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, whole grains, maybe yogurt and kefir, maybe lean grass feed meats and their fats, maybe wild caught seafood. The groups labeled “maybe” represent the disagreement among researchers over whether these foods contribute to or detract from good health. My Plate lumps green leafies with the vegetables, lists the beans with both the vegetables and the proteins, and places nuts and seeds in the protein group. The problem with these categorizations is that given a choice of proteins, many people will skip the beans and nuts on most occasions; same with the leafy greens as a vegetable choice. When you separate each of these into different groups, you can’t substitute a potato for your leafy greens or beans. If you are interested in more information and recipes based on these food groups, just let me know and I’ll write about them in future posts.
Also, take a peek at the recipes from My Plate. We’ve liked the Outtasight Salad (especially the yogurt dressing), and plan to try a few more. I will post on our efforts; be sure to let me know if you try any of these and what you liked.