MyPlate has replaced the old Food Pyramid and is an easier, more visually appealing solution for teens who want to eat healthy. The plate also seems less cluttered and easier to understand than the pyramid and it reflects changes in dietary recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Teenagers face some special challenges when it comes to making healthy diet choices. Often on the go with extracurricular activities, a job, and social activities, it's not uncommon for teens to eat on the run. Unfortunately, what's generally available "on the run" is not the healthiest food. MyPlate can help by giving guidance and encouragement towards healthy eating habits.
The Food Groups
MyPlate shows five very basic food groups:
However, there is a lot more that goes into figuring out how to eat healthy than just plopping one of each food group on your plate. In fact, you don't even have to consume all the food groups in one sitting. Digging into the FDA website a bit more reveals that there are numerous foods under each category, but medical professionals offer insight into which ones are superior to others.
The FDA offers a complete list of fruits on their website. While they indicate that fruit juices count as a fruit, but Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. cautions on the Mayo Clinic website that whole fruit is best and 100 percent fruit juice is superior to other concoctions that may be only partial fruit juice. You can enjoy fruits fresh, canned, frozen, or juiced. Fruits include foods like strawberries, melons, oranges, apples, peaches, grapes, kiwi and bananas.
Grains include foods like breads, oatmeal, popcorn, rice, crackers, tortilla and pasta. The FDA separates grains into two categories - refined and unrefined. As a rule of thumb, the FDA suggests consuming half your grains as whole grains. However, if whole grains are better for you, it certainly won't hurt to consume more whole grains than refined grains.
The FDA classifies vegetables into five different subgroups: "dark green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables." The veggies are classified according to the nutrients they contain. Dark, green vegetables tend to contain a lot of nutrients so pack a real punch if you want to up your vitamin and fiber intake. Veggies include foods like spinach, broccoli, peppers, beans and peas, corn (starchy vegetable), squash, tomatoes and lettuces. Yes, some people classify tomatoes as a fruit, but the FDA classifies them as a vegetable.
The FDA suggests enjoying a wide variety of protein for the best health benefits and eight ounces of cooked seafood each week. The FDA also suggests choosing lean protein over fatty protein the majority of the time and limited processed meats, such as deli meat and sausage. Protein choices include chicken, beef, seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds.
Milk and products made from milk fall into the dairy category. These include items like whole milk, cheeses, yogurt and ice cream. The MyPlate website recommends choosing low fat dairy products and limiting sweetened products such as chocolate milk because of the increase in calories sweetening creates.
Even though oils are not graphically depicted on the plate, they are important because they offer nutrients not found in other foods. They key is to consume healthy fats, such as extra virgin coconut oil, olives, avocados and some fish oils.
Features for Teens at ChooseMyPlate.gov
There are a few features at ChooseMyPlate.gov to help you begin a healthier eating plan.
- Daily Food Plans: The FDA knows that figuring out how to implement all these changes can be a challenge, so they've come up with some sample daily food plans and some blank worksheets you can use to plan out your meals. On the left side, find your ideal daily calorie intake and then scroll over to the center column and choose your age group.
- SuperTracker: Create a free online profile and use this handy app to help you plan meals, track calories or receive virtual coaching. When you first sign up, the program will ask for your age and vital statistics. You will be given a range based on your age and current statistics. You can even set personal calorie targets.
- MyPlate on Facebook: You may want to connect with MyPlate on Facebook to find out the latest information on eating, healthy diets and more. Likewise, you can also connect with MyPlate via twitter @MyPlate.
By combining information from MyPlate with recent medical research, you can be certain that you are eating as healthy as possible. Well, most of the time anyway. Everyone has French fries and a shake occasionally. Just don't make them part of your everyday routine.