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June 3, 2011

Goodbye MyPyramid, Hello MyPlate

On Thursday of this week, First Lady Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin unveiled a new symbol for healthy eating called MyPlate, shaped like, you guessed it, a plate!

Move over pyramid, the plate is taking your place.

Move over pyramid, the plate is taking your place.

Why it took the government so long to figure out the pyramid icon just wasn’t cutting it is beyond me, but that’s another story. The plate is a familiar shape that everyone can relate to, and what does a pyramid have to do with eating anyway?

MyPlate is meant as a visual reminder of the eating advice in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and to help you more easily make better food choices.

If you’re pregnant or nursing, you may be wondering what MyPlate means to you. Here are the key messages that will help you to eat better, no matter what stage of life you’re in.

* Enjoy your food, but eat less, and avoid oversized portions: Go ahead and enjoy healthy foods, but you don’t necessarily need to eat less. Pregnant and nursing women need, on average, 400 more calories a day than when they are not expecting a child. You should, however, stick to your calorie budget to avoid excess calories when you’re expecting or breastfeeding.

* Make half of your plate vegetables and fruit: Always a good strategy. Eat a variety of produce, including 100% orange juice, California raisins, mango, dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, and other brightly colored veggies, including carrots, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Just make sure you’re getting enough protein and health fats from foods such as pistachios and walnuts, seafood, and olive oil.

4. Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk: Or yogurt.

3. Make at least half your grains whole grains. Whole grains have more fiber, and other nutrients, than highly refined grains, such as white bread.

4. Compare sodium in foods – choose the foods with lower numbers: When you’re pregnant, too much sodium can make you puffy and may increase your blood pressure. Fresh and lightly processed foods are far lower in sodium than processed foods and restaurant fare.

5. Drink water instead of sugary drinks: Or drink fat-free or low-fat milk. You need three, eight ounce glasses a day when pregnant and nursing.