MyPlate: the new quick reference tool for healthy eating.
On June 2, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the USDA’s new food icon, MyPlate. This new diagram will replace the USDA’s past guides for nutritional intake, the Food Pyramid. MyPlate serves as a quick reminder about what types of foods should be occupying our plates per meal, not per day. MyPlate is consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and is an uncomplicated visual reminding us to make half our plates fruits and vegetables and the other half whole grains and lean proteins; the ‘plate’ is also accompanied by a smaller circle representing fat-free or low-fat dairy to complete a well-balanced meal.
In a press release for the announcement of this new initiative First Lady Michelle Obama stated, “This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating, and as a mom I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country. When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work we’re already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew; so it’s tough to be a nutritionist, too. But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. As long as they’re half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden. That’s how easy it is.”
The disturbing trend of increasing childhood obesity in the United States and children not receiving the proper nutrition has been blamed in part on our culture of fast food eating, so what effect will this new initiative have on restaurant business? The National Restaurant Association (NRA) has been named a strategic partner with the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy on spreading the word about MyPlate. The NRA, who applauds the effort to create MyPlate, recently launched its Kids Live Well program which is also consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and on track with MyPlate.
So whether you are eating at home or dining out, MyPlate is an easy reference tool to improve the quality of your diet. The USDA would like to see how you’re turning MyPlate into “your plate” by encouraging Americans to take a photo of their plates and share on Twitter with the hash-tag #MyPlate. What’s on your plate today?
Michelle Obama is a well-known advocate for the fight against childhood obesity in the US with her Let’s Move Campaign. And the First Lady has good cause for concern, childhood obesity rates in the United States have more than tripled in the past 30 years. The fast food culture that we have adopted over that time has been largely identified as the culprit for this dramatic increase so now the National Restaurant Association and Healthy Dining have come up with a program to try to prevent these numbers from rising even more. On July 13, 2011 they launched their new initiative, “Kids Live Well,” where participating restaurants will provide healthier options for children dining at their establishments.
The new Kids Live Well program, encourages restaurants to offer low calorie menu options on kids menus.
According to the National Restaurant Association’s website the criteria these restaurants must meet are as follows:
- Offer at least one full children’s meal (an entrée, side and beverage) that is 600 calories or less; contains two or more servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and/or low-fat dairy; and limits sodium, fats and sugar
- Offer at least one other individual item that has 200 calories or less, with limits on fats, sugars and sodium, and contains a serving of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein or low-fat dairy
- Display or make available upon request the nutrition profile of the healthful menu options; and
- Promote/identify the healthful menu options.
Nineteen fast food and restaurant chains in 15,000 locations have agreed to participate in the initial launch of “Kids Live Well.” Some of these restaurants include Au Bon Pain, Burger King, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Chevys Fresh Mex, Chili’s Grill & Bar, Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, El Pollo Loco, Friendly’s, IHOP, Joe’s Crab Shack, Outback Steakhouse, and Sizzler.
Including healthier options on popular restaurant chain menus is definitely a great start, but it’s still up to parents and kids to make smart decisions when they place their orders.