Any parent who has tried to navigate a well-stocked grocery store with a hungry child in tow knows it is a challenge. Weaving through endless aisles of candy, frozen pizza, chips, soda, and sugary cereals without at least one incident of pleading or bargaining is considered a major accomplishment.
But on a daily basis, where is the proper guidance to steer through the numerous food choices?
Getting to Know MyPlate
Since 1894, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been providing Americans with dietary guidelines. In general, they have focused on eating from specified food groups and emphasized moderation, proper proportions, and variety. An updated version of the USDA's guidelines is called MyPlate. It shows the image of a dinner plate divided into colored sections:
- Orange—grains (eg, wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley)
- Purple—protein (eg, meat, chicken, fish, beans, eggs, soy products, nuts, seeds)
- Red—fruits (eg, apples, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, peaches)
- Green—vegetables (eg, broccoli, romaine lettuce, spinach, corn, carrots)
Plus, there is a blue cup to the right of the plate to symbolize dairy foods (eg, milk, cheese, yogurt).
An important feature of MyPlate is that each section is a particular size. This is to highlight the proportions that Americans should aim for when planning their meal, for example:
- Half the plate should be fruits and veggies!
- About a quarter of the plate should be grains (especially whole grains).
- The rest should be protein.
Before Your Next Shopping Trip…
MyPlate provides parents with important concepts that virtually all experts agree on: making healthy food choices and practicing eating in moderation. So before hitting the grocery aisles with your little one, take the time to catch up on the suggestions found on MyPlate! The USDA's main messages include:
- Encourage your child to enjoy his food, but to eat portions that are right for his age and activity level.
- Fill half of your child's plate with fruits and vegetables.
- Have your kid drink fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
- Read food labels! Find out how much sodium is in packaged food. Choose lower sodium options.
- Encourage your child to drink water. Leave the sugary drinks behind.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 10/2011 -
- Update Date: 04/09/2012 -