myplateA well-balanced diet includes all of the food groups. These food groups are vegetables, fruits, dairy, protein, grains, and fats. MyPlate is a tool that can help you choose healthy portions of foods from these groups and eat a well-balanced plate at meals.

What is MyPlate?

MyPlate is a tool that was created by the US government to promote a well-balanced plate. MyPlate includes the types of foods you should be eating at all of your meals. By encouraging a balance of healthy foods, MyPlate can help you get the right amount of energy and nutrients each day.

Some of the key messages of MyPlate are listed below:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Limit starches and grains to 1/4 of your plate
  • Aim to make at least half your grains whole grains
  • Make 1/4 of your plate protein
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk and dairy products
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks
  • Use a 9″ dinner plate for your meals to avoid oversized or “super-sized” portions

What about the foods that are not shown on MyPlate?

MyPlate is a simple image and therefore does not include everything you may eat or drink at meals. For example, water isn’t shown on the plate, even though water is something you should have every day. MyPlate also doesn’t include healthy fats such as olive or canola oil which may be added when food is prepared or found in foods such as fish, nuts, and avocados. Foods and beverages that are high in solid fats and added sugars, such as desserts, chips, and sodas (things that we usually think of as “junk foods”) are also not included in MyPlate. Although it’s okay to have these foods sometimes, they aren’t shown on MyPlate because you shouldn’t eat them on a regular basis.

When can I use MyPlate?

MyPlate can easily be used when sitting down to any meal.

The following are some examples of using MyPlate:

  • Breakfast: ¾ cup of whole grain unsweetened cereal with 1 cup of 1% milk and ½ a large banana or 1 cup of strawberries
  • Lunch: Sandwich with 2 slices of whole grain bread, 3 oz of lean chicken, 1 oz. of part-skim cheese, tomato slices, lettuce and 8oz of water
  • Dinner: ¼ plate of brown rice and beans, ¼ plate chicken and tomato stew, ½ plate sautéed spinach and fruit with yogurt

Does my meal need to look like MyPlate every time?

Even though some meals aren’t eaten on a plate, you can still apply the MyPlate principles. For example, a burrito, a slice of pizza, or bowl of soup may not look like the MyPlate picture; however, the MyPlate concepts will still apply. Think about a slice of pizza – the crust (grains), cheese (protein), tomato sauce and topped with vegetables (vegetables) and then add a piece of fruit for dessert!

Is MyPlate only for eating at home?

The ideas behind MyPlate apply no matter where or what you are eating. At home, MyPlate may be used during family meals, which is a good way to promote good nutrition and healthy habits. For example, planning family meals ahead of time can become easier, since portion control shows you how much everyone should have as a part of a well-balanced meal. Outside of the home, it can be used when ordering from a menu, a buffet line or at a social event. For example, if you find yourself choosing something with only two food groups, have other food groups on the side or mixed in.

Where can I find MyPlate?

More information about the MyPlate method can be found here. This website includes educational material and tip sheets for families and people of different ages as well as the Supertracker, a tracking tool that can be used with MyPlate. Signing up for Supertracker provides you with the amount of each food group you should have based on your body mass index, age, and gender. It also allows you to track your progress over time.