Over the years, Shape Up America! has received many questions about healthy eating and it always seemed easiest to explain what constitutes a healthy balanced diet in terms of a plate since that is something everyone can relate to. A search on our website — www.shapeup.org — using the word "plate" as the search term will illustrate my point. Finally the U.S. government has decided to make it official — the plate icon is replacing the Food Pyramid and has launched a website — www.choosemyplate.gov — to help consumers learn more about healthy eating. We welcome this new icon as a teaching tool, and hope that it encourages more people to cover the majority of their plate with plant-based foods (veggies, fruits and products made from whole grains) at mealtimes.
Although there is evidence that protein is helpful for weight management, the new plate icon shows that the protein source should not cover more than ¼ of the plate. To that we would add that fish, skinless poultry, and lean cuts of meat are preferred. One thing the icon does not make clear is the role of fat and added sugars. For weight management, suffice it to say that minimal amounts of both are preferred. Note that dessert is not a part of the icon, which is an important message for those of us watching our weight.