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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Zaborowski

MyPlate-What is it and why use it?

Recently, I have had the privilege to work with a few different age groups on some nutrition projects and it occurred to me that not everyone is familiar with MyPlate. While many have HEARD of it, not many were very clear on what it meant. They understood it had something to do with eating healthy, but not much more than that. So I'd like to take a minute and talk about it. MyPlate was developed by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2011 as a replacement of the Food Pyramid. If you'd like, there is a nice timeline of the evolution of USDA food guides here.

As a person that grew up with the Food Pyramid, I appreciate the simplicity of the plate as it doesn't show serving sizes, because they're built in. The plate sections ARE the serving size. While actual serving sizes have an important role, as a kid, I found them incredibly confusing. What was a serving size and how do I know? While I get it now, I still like the way MyPlate makes it much more basic with the simple idea of fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, emphasizing their important role in the diet. Easy, right? Especially for kids that could care less about what a serving size is.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, nutrition can be confusing with all of the information out there, but it doesn't have to be. While I know that MyPlate does not take into consideration any kind of medical conditions that require some extra attention, what it does do is allow us to refocus what our true goal in healthy living is...building the nutrition foundation. It breaks down all of the information out there and simply says, here, eat this and cut out the rest. While we can go deeper and explain about whole grains, meaning they have more fiber, or talk about the different types of protein (plant vs. meat), it can also be as basic just make it look like the plate on a regular basis. No need to debate about anything further, just pick one from each category in it's most basic form. MyPlate is just your regular size dinner plate with fruit, veggies, a protein, a grain, and a dairy on it. All your choice of taste and design. Though I do recommend limiting the fried versions, but you knew that already ;) This is HUGE in my mind due to my childhood confusion about serving sizes and how much we should be eating. The plate shows you where it goes and how much because it's just...there. It helps retrain your mind to always ask, where's my vegetable? Where's my fruit? Then if you're still hungry after eating the full dinner plate, start again with the vegetable. You don't have to ask what vegetable is best or whether it's a "superfood" (see my thoughts on superfoods here), just pick one! The beauty! The simplicity! Again, this doesn't mean it has to be plain food, it just makes you see it there first, like an exercise in visualization for your plate. It also doesn't even really represent or show the less nutritious things like candy, cookies, junk food, etc. While these might be things we want occasionally, they aren't the focus. In my mind, they aren't on the plate because they don't need to be there all the time like these items that are on the plate, they're "extra". We have them on the side sometimes, but they aren't necessary on the plate all the time.

So next time you build your plate, visualize MyPlate and ask, where's my vegetable and where does it go? For more talk on healthy nutrition (and some gaming fun) don't forget the Playing With Food podcast on your favorite listening platform. Thank you to all of the wonderful listeners and readers out there and remember, to get the best out of your play, get the best out of your plate.

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