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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well


USDA releases MyPlate as a tool to plan healthy meals

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension


MyPlate iconThe United States Department of Agriculture has released a new tool to help families eat healthfully. MyPlate, based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, is a quick and easy guide for families to be able to quickly build a healthy meal.


The MyPlate icon is a simple picture of a plate with four different colored sections. The largest segment represents vegetables. With plant-based foods providing such important nutrients for good health, the smaller fruit segment joins the vegetable segment to comprise half the food on the plate. On the other side of the plate, the larger segment is the grains group. Grains — especially whole grains — provide fiber, B-vitamins and other essential nutrients. The fourth segment represents protein foods. This provides another important nutrient for good health, but in smaller proportion than many Americans are currently choosing. A small circle to the top right of the plate is a reminder of dairy options, milk being the most common.


The icon was made with families in mind. Even elementary school children can use the icon to help put together a healthful meal.


To learn more about planning and preparing healthy meals, go online to There is more information about foods to choose more of (fruits and vegetables, fat-free or 1 percent milk and whole grains) and foods to choose less of (sodium and sugary beverages).


The website has a variety of interactive tools. By entering your age, height and activity level, you can get a Daily Food Plan that tells you how many cups or ounces you need each day from each of the food groups. MyFood-a-pedia provides easy access to information about how many calories are in different foods and allows you to compare two foods. The Food Tracker lets you record what you have eaten and provides information on the quality of your diet. It will also assess physical activity status. A Food Planner helps plan menus based on your daily food plan.


View this brief informational video on the release of MyPlate from Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (video requires Flash player).


The following podcast offers additional information from Tom Vilsack and from Ellen Schuster and Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialists with University of Missouri Extension:


Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, contributed to this article.


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Last update: Friday, June 17, 2011