Use MyPlate to get your meals in shape

New USDA guidelines call for more veggies
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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National Nutrition Month is coming to a close, but it’s important to remember that eating well should be a priority every day.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Guide Pyramid (and, later, MyPyramid) was replaced in 2011 with MyPlate, unveiled by First Lady Michelle Obama as a tool to use when preparing meals. Shown at right, the graphic displays a plate divided into four sections, with a smaller portion for lean proteins and a larger one for vegetables. Low-fat dairy is shown on the side of the plate.

Registered Dietitian Catherine Nishikawa, manager of Nutrition and Food Services at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, shared her recommendations for using MyPlate to prepare and serve a healthy meal.

Q) What are the main differences between the Food Guide Pyramid and MyPlate?

A) Both the Food Guide Pyramid and MyPlate are communications tools created by the USDA to assist consumers in making better food choices. MyPlate is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The main differences between the Food Guide Pyramid and MyPlate are a new shape, based on the visual of a plate, which is a familiar symbol to consumers; and a simplified message focused on healthy eating.

Q) Is the food pyramid now obsolete?

A) Both the Food Guide Pyramid and MyPlate are illustrations of the same food groups, with recommendations to consumers on what and how much to eat. The Food Guide Pyramid is not obsolete, and there are many educational materials still available for use. These educational materials can be used in combination with materials available for MyPlate. Helpful educational tools and resources for both can be found at

Q) What are some tips to keep in mind when preparing a meal under the new guidelines?

A) Balance calories. Enjoy your food, but eat less and avoid oversized portions. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, make half of the grains you choose whole grains, reduce your intake of foods high in sodium and drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Chef Laura Kenny, owner of Auburn’s Real Food Catering, has been using fresh, seasonal vegetables in her meals for years. She said an easy way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet is to juice them. Using seasonal produce will give nice variety to juices.

“If I can’t use all the vegetables before they go bad, I make stocks and soups to freeze and use later,” Kenny said. “Canning is also a great preserving method.”

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at Follow her on Twitter, @AuburnJournalAE.


Meal ideas

Dietitian Catherine Nishikawa advises that the amount of food needed by any one individual will vary based on that person’s age, sex and physical activity level. With that in mind, she offers the following as MyPlate-appropriate meals.

Meal for a woman

One small green salad (vegetable)

One dinner roll (grain)

½ cup fresh fruit

½ cup steamed green beans

½ cup brown rice (whole grain)

One small (2-ounce) chicken breast (protein)

1 cup (8 ounces) 1 percent milk (dairy)


Meal for a man

One green salad (vegetable)

One dinner roll (grain)

1 cup fresh fruit

1 cup steamed green beans

½ cup brown rice (whole grain)

1 small (3-ounce) chicken breast (protein)

1 cup (8 ounces) 1 percent milk (dairy)



What’s on your plate?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers the following tips to keep in mind when planning your meals.

Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables – Eat a variety, especially dark-green, red and orange varieties.

Make at least half of your grains whole.

Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk – they have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories.

Vary your protein choices – eat a variety of foods from the protein food group each week, such as seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs.

Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars – Replace sugary drinks with water and choose fruit for dessert.

• Enjoy your foods, but eat less – Use a smaller plate, bowl and glass. Cook more often at home, where you are in control of what’s in your food.

Be physically active your way – Adults need at least two hours and 30 minutes of physical activity every week. Choose activities that you enjoy, and start by doing as much as you can.