What’s on “My Plate?”

Finally, the United States Department of Agriculture has issued eating guidelines that make sense.

Four Food Groups

Any American who lived through the 1980s can name the four food groups: meat, dairy, grain and vegetables. A balanced diet was supposed to contain each of these, but if there was any mention of how much of each you were supposed to eat, it was lost on me. This led to weirdness like the Reagan administration’s budget director suggesting that ketchup could be considered a vegetable in school lunches. And no mention was made of foods to avoid like fats and oils, salt and sugar.

Food Pyramid

That led to the Food Pyramid, introduced in 1992. This was better and worse: better because it recommended a number of portions of which foods to eat daily, but worse because it was confusing and if you actually ate all of those foods, you’d be eating a lot! The largest proportion: grains, laden with carbs and which for the majority of Americans often means highly processed flour and corn chips rather than healthy whole grains.

My Plate

This week, the USDA announced My Plate, and already I love it. It’s easy to follow. It’s round, because who has pyramid-shaped plates? Now divide that plate into sections for the different food groups. Regardless of the size of the plate, just match the proportions and you’ll be on the right track. Half of the plate is fruits and vegetables, which everyone knows are the best things for you. The word “grains” indicates that there’s food beyond white bread, and “protein” indicates that eggs, beans and fish can be as beneficial as meat. Dairy doesn’t even appear on the plate, but to the side.

I tried it right away. For breakfast this morning, I sauteed spinach and topped it with a little lemon vinaigrette (for the vegetables) and poured a cup of grapefruit juice (for the fruit). Grains: one third of a bagel (a trick my dad taught us when we were kids), spread about a millimeter of cream cheese (dairy) on it, layered with some sliced onion (more vegetable) and topped with smoked herring and an egg fried in a nonstick pan (with no oil) for the protein.

Do I feel good? You betcha!

And finally now I can ditch those pyramid-shaped plates.