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Nutrition Advice Made Easy With New American Plate

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

Move over food pyramid and make room for the new USDA food plate designed to help you plan and eat healthier meals. The pyramid was colorful and educational – but only if you could get inside of it to figure out what to eat.

Look no further. A simple plate tells the whole story in – five easy pieces.

Instead of the traditional entrée, starch and vegetable – the new plate is divided into four quadrants alongside a serving of dairy.

Fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables – remains the foundation of a healthy diet. Push the entrée or protein off the center of the plate into one quarter and don’t think this always has to be animal protein – legumes, nuts, and tofu are healthy plant protein alternatives. Fill the last section with grains, preferably whole grains and off the plate, but equally as important, is a serving of low fat dairy.

Educational Tools and Resources Provide the How-To

A wealth of tools and resources are available to help fill your grocery cart with more nutritious foods and less highly processed foods. Keep the plate model in mind for all meals and snacks as a goal to help you eat more nutrient rich foods and fewer empty calorie foods that don’t have a permanent place on the new plate. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a hot fudge sundae or a soda occasionally, it means most of time, eat the food groups featured on the plate. And when choosing those foods, keep them simple to control fat, sodium and calories.

The Result: Improved Health and Weight Loss

Follow the advice of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and use the plate as a model to guide your choices and control portion sizes. As a result, you will eat a healthier diet that is naturally lower in sodium, added sugars, and solid fats while increasing the nutrients like calcium, fiber and vitamin D that most Americans don’t get enough of.

And that’s not all, you will also lose weight and improve your health if you also add a dose of regular physical activity as part of your lifestyle.


The opinions expressed in WebMD Second Opinion are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Second Opinion are... Expand


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