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What's on your plate? Is it healthy?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Earlier this month Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined with First Lady Michelle Obama and Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin to introduce the USDA's new food icon -- MyPlate -- a simple reminder to make healthy food choices.

Local nutritionists and dieticians applaud this move to replace the familiar Food Pyramid.

What we eat matters, and MyPlate offers a visual reminder to make healthy food choices choosing your next meal. MyPlate looks just like a plate at mealtime. It can help prioritize food choices and remind food preparers to make fruits and vegetables half of our plates each meal. On the other side of the plate -- and beside it -- we see the other important food groups for a healthy meal: whole grains, lean proteins, and low fat dairy.

"The new MyPlate icon is easier to relate to than the pyramid since we use plates daily to prepare foods for ourselves or others," said Madeleine Hallum, a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian nutritionist who works closely with Christian Care Center of Bedford County. "For the general public, I can see that a [parent] who is preparing a meal for children may change their daily menu to incorporate the messages from MyPlate."

With the unveiling of the MyPlate icon, the USDA has also provided "10 tips to a great plate" which comes with simple guidelines such as "Focus on Fruit" and "Make half of your grains whole."

"I believe that these are easy and clear messages for the public to grasp. And with the current epidemic of obesity threatening our country, this message is vital and a change such as revamping the Food Pyramid couldn't have come at a more important time," said Hallum.

"For Americans to lead happy, productive, lives it helps to stay healthy, active and fit. It's really pretty simple. Choose a healthier plate, and balance it with exercise. In the end, it comes down to the choices we make," said Vilsack in a press release.

Already based on guidelines for a nutritious and balanced meal, menus at local schools and care centers aren't likely to change, but the curriculum for nutritional education will.

To take a look at MyPlate and learn more about a healthy diet, visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov to get messages, tools, and how-to materials about healthy eating. This website has information on staying healthy, with tips on balancing calories, foods to increase, and foods to reduce.

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