A Tale of Two Plates

Meet MyPlate. It takes the place of the USDA‘s outdated food pyramid that was so confusing to so many.  It was definitely a step in the right direction.  It doesn’t focus on servings, which can be confusing. Instead it shows how much of your plate a food group should cover.  But it leaves out a lot of important information.

And as Harvard Health Publications points out, “a hamburger or hot dog on a white bread bun with French fries and a milk shake could be part of a MyPlate meal – even though high red and processed meat intakes increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer, and high intakes of refined grains and potatoes make it hard to control weight.”

The USDA's baby.

The USDA’s baby.

Now I’d like to introduce you to MyPlate’s renegade sibling.  The Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Eating Plate.  The resemblance is there, but it’s what’s on it that’s a game changer. It spells out the types and quality of the food we should be eating.  Food industry lobbyists had nothing to say about it.


Here’s the big picture:

1.  Healthy oils are good for the heart.  Limit butter and trans fat.

2.  Vegetables and fruits, in all their colorful variety, should make up 1/2 your plate.  Potatoes don’t count.  They have the same effect on our blood sugar as consuming refined grains and sweet treats.

3.  Eat whole grains–like whole wheat breads and pastas.  Limit white bread and rice.

4.  Choose healthy proteins like fish, poultry, beans, and nuts.  Steer clear of red  and   processed meats because eating these on a regular basis can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer.

5.  It’s a water glass!  Limit dairy to 1 or 2 servings a day, and avoid juice and sugary drinks.

There’s even an icon to remind you to stay active.  Eating healthy foods and getting your body in motion is what it’s all about.

As a parent, I appreciate all the help I can get in making sense of the large amounts of science based nutrition out there.  I want the specifics.  And I want it from an organization with no commercial ties to the foods it’s suggesting I eat.  This is the plate I’ll be eating from…


What your mother always told you . . .

Did she tell you to clean up your room? Turn that music down? Take out the garbage? Possibly.

But I’m absolutely certain that at some point in time she told you to eat your vegetables!

And I’m quite sure that you worry about the very same thing with your kids. After all, eating fruits and vegetables provides lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber which are essential to good health. Not to mention they help fill you up without a lot of fat and calories and reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases to boot.

So, imagine a circle representing your dinner plate. Draw an imaginary line through the middle of the circle bisecting it into two equal halves. Now, load up one half with imaginary fruits and vegetables. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designed this easy to follow graphic reminder of what we should be eating.

5 servings a day, minimum… More is better… This is the standard, one size fits all recommendation. For more specific numbers based on age and gender check HERE.

It might seem like a challenge to fit them all in, but don’t feel overwhelmed. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

1. One or two at every meal. Servings that is… And try one at snack time for carbohydrate energy with protein for holding power.

2. Double up! Instead of taking an extra slice of garlic toast have a second serving of salad for example.

3. What’s growing in your area? Shop in season. Vegetables will taste better and, as a result, will be easier to consume. Visit the farmer’s market, roadside stand, or check out locally grown produce at the grocery store.

How do you fill your plate with fruits and vegetables?