Have you heard? The food pyramid is getting taken over by a dinner plate! I read this article yesterday, published by the New York Times, and I was super excited. While I will still use the food pyramid for more detailed information about specific food groups, the dinner plate method is a more simple and effective way to teach portion control and how to make healthier choices. I’ve actually used this method with my own clients, and I have to say, it works!

*** And here is the new USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov! *** <—- Check it out! It’s pretty fun

The whole idea is to use a normal size plate to show that it’s important to make half of your plate non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, etc.) and/or fruit, one-fourth of your plate grains (preferably whole) or starchy vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, corn, beans, etc), and the other fourth of your plate lean protein (3-4 ounces). There is also room for a small glass of milk to drink, or a cup of yogurt (dairy or non-dairy).

 

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I think the most important part of the message is the inclusion of the non-starchy vegetables, and the smaller portion of protein (rather than 12 ounces of steak, try 4!). This message may help people take a meal such as the one below, and replace half of the pasta with some fresh veggies; bell peppers, eggplant, mushroom, zucchini, etc.

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From the article;

The circular plate, which will be unveiled Thursday, is meant to give consumers a fast, easily grasped reminder of the basics of a healthy diet. It consists of four colored sections, for fruits, vegetables, grains and protein, according to several people who have been briefed on the change. Beside the plate is a smaller circle for dairy, suggesting a glass of low-fat milk or perhaps a yogurt cup.

Dr. David Kessler, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, who said he had heard descriptions of the new plate, suggested that if the symbol succeeded in getting people to eat significantly more fruits and vegetables, that alone would be an achievement.

“The reality is that very few of us eat like what has been suggested” in government guidelines for healthy eating, Dr. Kessler said. “There’s a world of difference between what’s being served and what’s on that plate.”

He called the plate a major improvement over the pyramid. “It conveys the message simply in a way that we all can understand,” he said.

While the idea is to make half of your plate non-starchy vegetables and/or fruit, many dietitians (including myself) would suggest focusing more on the non-starchy vegetables, especially for purposes of weight management (simply because fruit has more sugar). So how would this method work for breakfast? This is a question I often receive from clients. Well, maybe you won’t have vegetables at breakfast (unless you are like me and add pumpkin to your oats!) but breakfast is the perfect time for a nice serving of fruit, and a hearty dose of whole grains.

Instead of an all-protein breakfast….

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….try fruit, whole grain, and a milk or other calcium/protein source. The inclusion of the fruit or non-starchy vegetable, in my opinion, is the most important part of the meal.

Source: iStockPhoto

QUESTION: Have you heard of the plate method? What are your thoughts?