MyPlate & YOU

The new food icon based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 was unveiled on June 2, 2011 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The icon is called MyPlate and features a fork on the left, a plate in the shape of a circle divided into four portions and a smaller, overlapping circle to the upper right.

While the MyPlate icon is more intuitive than the previous MyPyramid, which showed what we should eat on a daily basis using a triangle, the plate could still use some interpretation and education to make sense out of the recommendations regarding what to eat. First of all, what foods are included in these groups? It was not exactly clear even to me as a registered dietitian, so I dug a bit deeper and reviewed the contents of the MyPlate website. While knowing which foods are within each section of the icon is important, the real opportunity to eat healthy is to choose the most nutritious options from each of the food groups.

Vegetables group (green) includes:

  • Non-starchy vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach
  • High water content vegetables such as romaine lettuce, celery, cucumbers
  • Starchy vegetables such as corn, green peas, potatoes
  • High protein vegetables such as dried beans and peas (pinto, kidney, garbanzo, etc.) which are also in the Protein group
  • 100% vegetable juice

Best choices:

  • Whole vegetables that are dark green, red or orange in color
  • Vegetables that are fresh, frozen or canned with no added salt, fat or sauces
  • Eat whole vegetables instead of drinking vegetable juice
  • Enjoy vegetables raw or lightly steamed

Fruits group (red) includes:

  • Fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% fruit juice

Best choices:

  • Fruits that are fresh, frozen, dried or canned with no added sugar
  • Fruits rich in antioxidants such as berries
  • Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juice

Grains group (brown) includes:

  • Foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or other cereal grains
  • These foods include bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits

Best choices:

  • Whole grains including whole-wheat breads, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn, whole wheat or whole grain pastas
  • Check the ingredient list on food packages to be sure the words whole wheat or whole grain are listed first
  • Enjoy whole grain foods with little or no added fat, sugar or salt

Protein group (purple) includes:

  • Meats, poultry and seafood
  • Dried beans and peas (pinto, kidney, garbanzo, etc.) which are also in the Vegetables group
  • Eggs
  • Processed soy products including tofu, veggie burgers, tempeh
  • Nuts and seeds

Best choices:

  • Seafood rich in omega-3 fats such as herring, sardines, halibut, salmon, tuna, mackerel
  • Nuts and seeds rich in omega-3 fats such as walnuts, almonds and flax seeds
  • Tofu
  • Dried beans and peas eaten in combination with whole grains and/or seeds and nuts
  • Poultry without skin
  • Lean cuts of beef, ham, lamb, pork and veal
  • Lean ground meats such as 90% lean

Dairy group (blue) includes:

  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese

Best choices:

  • Fat-free and low fat (1%) white (non-flavored) milk
  • Plain fat-free and low fat yogurt
  • Fat-free and low fat cheeses

There is not a separate food group for fats and oils. However, it is important to know that the most nutritious fats are liquid with the best choices being olive and canola oils. Remember that Guiding Stars can help–vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, fat-free and low-fat milk, and many oils receive stars. Using the Food Finder can help you locate foods with Guiding Stars that fit onto a healthy MyPlate for you.

About our Nutrition Expert

Lori Kaley MS, RD, LD, MSB is a member of the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel. Lori has 30 years of combined experience working in healthcare and public health creating policies and environments to help families and children have access to healthy foods and beverages. She is currently Policy Associate at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service.

Lori’s greatest achievement and joy has been in raising her three daughters to be healthy and productive young adults, each with their own particular love of food, cooking and being physically active. Lori’s passion for nutritional community outreach has been a cornerstone of the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel. Lori regularly contributes to the Guiding Stars blog.