Eating a balanced diet is a daunting task we’re faced with all the time. It can be tough to remember how many servings of fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy and grain we should be consuming every day, and who has time to keep track? Until recently, many people looked to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid, which could be overwhelming and difficult to understand. In 2011, the USDA replaced the food pyramid with a much more relatable object: the plate.
The new program, MyPlate, was inspired in part by first lady Michelle Obama and creates an easy-to-understand visual of the proportions of the various food groups you should have during each meal. Following the guidelines from this tool should put you on the right track toward eating the appropriate amount of servings from each food group to keep you healthy. When fixing your plate, one half of the plate should be occupied by fruits and vegetables. One quarter of the plate should be dedicated to protein – lean meat, beans, etc. – and the other quarter, grain. Add a glass of milk, and you’ve got a well-balanced meal.
Here is another helpful tip: rather than spending your time counting the number of food group servings you need to get, plan meals with the plate image in mind. Create a menu each week before you go to the grocery store to help make sure you’re getting all of the ingredients you need.
Protein: Roasted pork Vegetable: Broccoli Fruit: Crushed pineapples Grain: Slice of whole wheat bread Dairy: Glass of Milk
If you’re pressed for time when it comes to meal preparation, there are many shortcuts you can take while still ensuring you get all necessary nutrients. For example, if you don’t have time to clean and chop fresh vegetables, head to the freezer or canned goods aisle of the grocery store. Just be sure you choose frozen or canned veggies that have low or no sodium. Similarly, you can mix up your fruit options and cut down on preparation time by incorporating dried, frozen and canned fruit along with fresh.
With so many ways to get creative and save time in meal prep, it’s getting easier to fill up your plate with the right choices!
Adapted from the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion’s ChooseMyPlate.gov website.