July 22, 2016
How to Build a Great Plate

How to Build a Great Plate

by Berkeley Wellness  |  

A good visual aid to use for planning and serving healthful balanced meals is the USDA's nutrition guide, MyPlate. It presents a dinner plate divided into four compartments: vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein—with a circle off to the side representing dairy foods (such as milk and yogurt). It’s recommended that you fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit. Grains (preferably whole grains, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and oatmeal) and protein foods (such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs, beans, and tofu) should each take up about a quarter of the plate.

Unveiled in 2011 as part of first lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign, MyPlate has taken the place of the USDA's much-maligned Food Pyramid. The new guide is not perfect, but it's an improvement. For one, it clearly emphasizes plant foods. But protein, which has its own category, is a nutrient, not a food, and it can be found not only in meat but also in dairy foods, grains, and even vegetables, so there is overlap. There is no need to emphasize protein anyway as most Americans get more than enough.

Step up to the plate: The USDA’s Myplate website provides information about what foods are in each group, along with daily food plans, a “supertracker” program (where you can track and analyze your diet and physical activity), a section highlighting how portion sizes have grown over the years, and other interactive tools.

Updated 4/18/16