Susan L. Madden, MS and Marjorie Montemayor-Quellenberg, MA
If you often wonder what foods you should be eating and in how much, the ChooseMyPlate website from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) may hold your answers. The USDA created MyPlate as a way to point out the relative amounts of different types of food people should eat daily to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. There is also an interactive website containing a wealth of information, including explanations of food groups; common foods in each group; detailed guidelines for good nutrition; and personalized tools for tracking eating habits.
The ChooseMyPlate website contains guidelines on the following keys to a healthy you:
MyPlate was created to help Americans follow a healthier eating style. The image of the plate was created as an easy reminder of what to eat and in what proportions. Each colored area on the plate represents a different food group as well as an idea of how much food from that group should be on your plate:
The amount of each food you should eat from each group depends on your age, sex, and physical activity level. MyPlate provides you with examples of food and portion sizes.
MyPlate provides the following key tips for each food group:
MyPlate also provides ways for you to reduce your calorie intake. Sometimes, easy substitutions can make a big difference. For example, iff you want to cut back on sugar, consider switching from soft drinks to water. If you aren't ready to make that jump, switch to sugar-free soft drinks, then slowly increase your water intake while you decrease your soft drink intake.
In general, you will want to get most of your calories from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Keep track of the foods you eat and the calories in them. And don't forget that you will need to exercise in order to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight.
MyPlate also has suggestions on ways to reduce your sodium intake. Sodium may be an important factor in the development of high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Aim for less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
Common foods that are high in sodium include packaged and prepared foods, pizza, salad dressings and seasonings, and soups. To find out how much sodium is in your food, check the Nutrition Facts label. Often, there are low sodium options available.
You can't lose or manage weight without physical activity. MyPlate can also help you find ways to increase your activity level, even if you think you're destined to be a couch potato. It provides information about the benefits of regular exercise and will also give you pointers on how to slowly increase your physical activity level.
Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
Now that you're on your way to a better you, you may want to use the MyPlate SuperTracker tool to log your diet and physical activity achievements. SuperTracker is a place where you can set your goals, personalize your plans, and track your progress. Not only that, you can find helpful tips while getting support from other people who are doing the same thing.
MyPlate has lots of information for people of all ages, from preschoolers to college students. If you pregnant or a new mom who is breastfeeding, MyPlate has something for you too. MyPlate and SuperTracker are useful tools to put you on the right track for a healthy lifestyle.
Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture
Dietitians of Canada
2015-2020 Dietary guidelines for Americans. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Accessed February 14, 2017.
ChooseMyPlate. Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture website. Available at:
http://www.choosemyplate.gov. Accessed February 14, 2017.
Sodium. Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/sodium. Accessed February 15, 2017.
SuperTracker. US Department of Agriculture SuperTracker website. Available at: https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/default.aspx. Accessed February 14, 2017.
Last reviewed February 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
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