Close your eyes and picture MyPlate. Are you seeing five colorful food group shapes proportionately displayed on a common vessel we use to hold food (you know, a plate)? If so, you are among the mere 25% of Americans that had heard of MyPlate, as of 2020.
This year, for MyPlate’s (12th) birthday, we are here to spread the good word about this healthy eating mainstay – used to teach about food and nutrition in the US.
A History Lesson
If you were in elementary school back in the day, you may recall being taught the “Basic Seven”, “Basic Four”, “Food Wheel”, or our favorite, the “Hassle-Free Daily Food Guide.” All were ways to depict the food groups, and foods within each of them, that we eat and how much of them to consume for a healthy diet. After these food guides, and immediately preceding MyPlate, came the Food Guide Pyramid and MyPyramid. These were the most similar to the modern-day MyPlate, but in the form of a different shape.
What is MyPlate?
Contrary to what some may think, MyPlate is not a “prescription” for healthy eating. Rather, it’s intended to be aspirational, inspirational, and instructional to help ANYONE and EVERYONE build a healthy eating pattern that works for them. It shows us how to start with each of the five food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein foods) to build healthy meals and snacks. It embodies the important message “make half your plate fruits and vegetables” which is critical because the vast majority (more than 80%!) of Americans do not consume enough fruits and vegetables and, as a result, the average diet quality score in our country is 59 out of 100 – a failing score.
The Choice Is Yours
MyPlate is ripe for customization. For instance, we can:
- Enjoy MyPlate in a bowl, a paper bag, or on a high-chair tray…with a fork, a spoon, chopsticks, or fingers.
- Build our MyPlate anywhere – on-the-go, at school, at a restaurant.
- Choose favorite options from each food group as they fit into our cultural backgrounds, family preferences, and in-the-moment cravings. (Reminder: just make sure they are nutrient dense with no or limited sodium, added sugars, and saturated fat).
- Meet any budget parameters. There are more- and less-expensive options in each and every food group and other ways to save on favorite foods (watching the sales, using coupons, etc.). From a fruit and vegetable perspective, it’s easy to choose in-season or affordable options year-round (like frozen berries, canned veggies).
Fruits & Veggies Complement Any Plate…Any Meal…Any Mood
DYK that data show that individuals who eat fruits and vegetables most often are happier and have greater life satisfaction? And, it’s easier to enjoy more fruits and vegetables than one may think. One key is to use hacks to build long-lasting fruit and vegetable habits. Start with current behaviors and build from there! Here are some ideas:
- Top-of-mind. Keep fruit on the counter where it’s easy to see and grab. Put cut-up fruits and vegetables at eye level in the fridge.
- Pre-prep. Clean and cut up fruits and vegetables ahead of time for future meals and snacks. Buy pre-cut fruits and vegetables or frozen, canned, or dried fruits and vegetables to prep and eat in minutes.
- Have fun. Cut fruits and vegetables into fun shapes for the kids. Prepare meals and snacks with fruits and veggies as a family.
- Enjoy the flavor. Top favorite foods with fruits, such as cereal or yogurt. Add fruits and veggies to favorite dishes, meals, and snacks like tacos, pizza, pasta, etc. Use spices and herbs to enhance the flavor of fruits and veggies.
- Plant-power. Plan one plant-forward meal each week. Let the family vote on their favorites.
At the end of the day, making half your plate fruits and vegetables doesn’t have to feel daunting. If you simply Have A Plant® every time you eat, you’ll get there.