MyPlate For Our Children

June 16, 2011


The USDA pulled the plug on the Food Guide Pyramid last week and replaced it with the family friendly MyPlate.MyPlate

But is it really new?

Well... yes and no.

The dietitians at Texas Children's Hospital have been ahead of the curve and have been using a similar graphic to the new MyPlate for years. The plate method has considerable advantages over the phased out pyramid.

The key messages are:

  • More vegetables and fruit. Remember, the key for children is exposure. Just because a child doesn't initially like broccoli, it doesn't mean they will never like it. Keep offering, especially when your child is hungry. Half of the plate should be

    fruits and vegetables. If you are short on time, or your budget won't allow it, canned (yes, canned!) or frozen would be better than none at all. Remember, you eat fruits and vegetables for the phytochemicals or colors as much as the vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables are key sources of fiber and fluid for children. You can actually do this at any fast or quick serve restaurant. Just change what you order.

  • Choose more whole grains. This includes 100% whole wheat bread, oatmeal and even popcorn! Grains and starches should be 1/4 of the plate. For children who don't like whole wheat pasta, try those brands that are a mix of whole wheat and white flours.
  • Lean protein should occupy 1/4 of the plate. This is the obvious chicken and fish. However, many cuts of red meat are also lean. Choose meats with the word "loin" in the name. Think pork or beef tenderloin. In Texas, we love our meat hanging over the edge of the plate. Although protein is important for growth and development, extra protein doesn't translate into improved health. It becomes a source of extra calories and fat. Lean protein can also be vegetarian! Beans, legumes and tofu also fit the bill for this 1/4 of the plate.
  • Choose water or skim/1% fat milk instead of sweet drinks. Sweet drinks include lemonade, fruit punch, sweet tea, all soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks. Sports drinks are appropriate for outdoor exercise but are NOT lunch time beverages. You notice 2% milk is not recommended. Whole milk contains 3.25% fat and so this makes 2% milk whole milk's close cousin. Wean your child — and maybe yourself — to a true low fat or fat free milk.
  • Use smaller plates for children. Consider using a salad plate for children 7 and younger. No one should eat off a platter! If you serve young children off a typical dinner plate, it is too much food!

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