By Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD

Last week the USDA unveiled MyPlate, the new icon that will be replacing MyPyramid as their visual interpretation of a balanced diet.

First Lady Michelle Obama was on hand at the press conference, where she gave her take on the new MyPlate: “This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating and as a mom, I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country.  When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work, we’re already asked to be chef, a referee, a cleaning crew.  So it’s tough to be a nutritionist, too.  But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. As long as they’re half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden.  That’s how easy it is.”

The MyPlate icon – a plate filled with half fruits and veggies, with the rest divided between grains (at least half as whole grains) and protein, accompanied by a cup of low-fat dairy – isn’t exactly what you’d call ground-breaking.  It does, however, provide a simple visual guide that’s easy for us to relate to as we’re serving up our own plates daily.

It’s also important to keep in mind that MyPlate is a general guideline for the general population.  It’s a point of reference, not necessarily a specific recommendation of exactly what we should eat.  For example, the total amount of carbohydrates found in MyPlate’s fruit, milk, and grain servings may be too much at one time for a person who is insulin resistant, so it may be better to choose one or two, but not all three types of carb-rich foods.

One of the key components that I’m loving about the USDA’s new initiative (aside from the fact that my much-loved La Tortilla Factory Smart & Delicious Tortillas and SoftWraps have a solid spot on MyPlate!) is their strategic plan to organize government and the food industry to focus on promoting one cohesive nutrition message at a time – brilliant!  Bombarding the public with so many different messages at once can leave us feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to even start, so the result can be that we do nothing at all.

So, as part of the MyPlate initiative, the USDA has developed a campaign calendar to unify and coordinate efforts to keep everyone on schedule as to what their key messages are, starting with the current message of “Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables.

The key nutrition messages on the campaign calendar will include:

Balancing Calories

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

Foods to Increase:

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

Foods to Reduce:

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