The new My Plate nutrition guidelines released by the federal government earlier this month are another step toward the goal of a healthier America and, according to licensed dietitian and nutritionist Elizabeth Kirkpatrick, easier to follow.
“I think it is a big change but I think it’s easy to adhere to,” said Kirkpatrick, who runs Keep It Healthy in Greensboro. “I really like that it makes it fairly simple. You don’t have to count anything or look things up or measure anything, it’s purely a good visual reference.”
My Plate replaces the standard nutritional guideline food pyramid originally released by the USDA in 1992, and the revamped version released in 2005.
The new guidelines include the same food groups as the pyramid, but the proportions have changed. Fruits and vegetables take up half the plate, and grains and proteins make up the other half, all in different quadrants.
A small circle to the side of the plate represents dairy.
“I think that the ‘My Plate’ is a good visual for showing that all of the food groups should be included in meals and what portion — that fruits and vegetables make up half and grains and protein the other half,” Kirkpatrick said.
“The My Plate icon is much easier to understand than the previous Food Pyramid,” said Suzanne Miller, licensed nutritionist and dietitian.
“The plate is more recognizable and relatable. Knowing what and how much to eat is the first step to eating healthier. However, actually eating that way is another matter.”
Jennifer Bland-Campbell, a registered dietitian for ARAMARK, said the guidelines help encourage Americans to eat more foods they don’t necessarily get enough of.
ARAMARK provides food, facilities and clothing to businesses, sports facilities and education and health care institutions.
ARAMARK provides dining services locally for Elon University.
“(The guidelines) discourage us from eating foods that we gravitate toward like fats and sugars,” Bland-Campbell said.
She said that ARAMARK has always incorporated the dietary guidelines into menu-planning strategies.
“We always offer and will continue to offer and expand our healthy menu offerings, and we hope that customers would more easily include the menu offerings in the right amount,” Bland-Campbell said.
While the plate is a good starting visual, Kirkpatrick said that including all food groups in a meal is not necessarily enough.
“The one thing that I think people need to understand, though, is that portion size is very important,” Kirkpatrick said.
“The size, or diameter, of that plate will be instrumental in keeping the calories down.”
What My Plate lacks, she said, are guidelines on which foods of each food group are healthy to eat and which are not. “It’s still not really talking about food choice — people need to remember there is definitely a difference in the meat group between salmon and pork ribs,” she said.
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Copyright © 2011, Times-News, Burlington, N.C.