Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Michelle Obama introduced MyPlate as a replacement for the Food Pyramid. The MyPlate illustration is a fork beside a plate that is divided into four wedges, representing fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein, plus a glass outside the plate, representing dairy. What do you think of the USDA’s new food icon?
Michelle Obama seeks nutritional ease
Instead of become frustrated over the plethora of mixed dietary messages from the media, books, experts, and anecdotes, turn to MyPlate for dietary guidance, suggests First Lady Michelle Obama. At a news conference in Washington, Obama said:
“We’re all bombarded with so many dietary messages that it’s hard to find time to sort through this information. We do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. We do it all the time. We’re the ones fixing the plates. As long as they’re eating proper portions, as long as half of their meal is fruits and vegetables alongside their lean proteins and whole grains and low-fat dairy, then we’re good. It’s as simple as that.”
What about portion control?
Though the plate is a helpful representation of the proportions of the food groups we should be eating, the lack of serving sizes or number of servings per each group can lead to portion distortion. Is the protein section for three ounces of meat or 13 ounces? Is the dairy “glass” for 4 ounces or 32 ounces? We applaud the fruits, vegetables, and grains sections being slightly larger than the protein wedge, but we are certainly concerned about the lack of portion information on the icon. Americans have become notoriously accustomed to supersized meals, a factor in the growing rate of childhood obesity and the steady rate of adults being overweight or obese.
Look beyond the MyPlate icon
The MyPlate icon may be a helpful representation of what your family’s plate should look like when you sit down for a meal, but it’s important for you to learn more about each food group to ensure that your family really is eating a healthy, balanced vegan diet. For instance, as you likely already know as a vegan, protein isn’t just from animal sources and that you can get protein from grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes. Further, since dairy products are not part of a vegan diet, you will have to seek out the nutrients that are found in dairy products (calcium, for example) from non-dairy sources.
Dietary guidelines are just that — guidelines to give you basic information to ensure your family is following a balanced diet. But your role as a parent or as your own dietary counsel is to do your own research.