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MyPlate: A new icon for eating healthy

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By Maryellen Garrison

The MyPlate icon, with a plate, fork and drinking glass, simplifies the message for healthy eating. The plate is divided into four unequal sections — vegetables and fruits fill the left half, and grains and protein fill the right. The glass represents dairy products. The straightforward visual makes the recommendations for eating different food groups clear.

The new, simplified dietary plan from the U. S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services covers balancing calories, increasing certain foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) and decreasing others (items with high sodium, solid fats, added sugar and sugary drinks). The message also covers eating the correct number of calories and increasing activity.

Here are highlights of the new MyPlate suggestions:

Build a healthy plate. Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.

Switch to skim or one percent milk. Make a minimum of half of your grains whole grain. Vary protein choices, eating seafood twice a week and eating more beans, a natural source of protein and fiber.

Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars and salt. Choose foods with little or no added sugar, opting for water, fruits for dessert, and 100 percent fruit juice over sugary options. Watch sodium levels in foods. Eat fewer foods with a lot of solid fats, choosing lean meats and oils, and limiting snack foods (cakes, cookies, ice cream, hot dogs, sausages) that contain solid fats.

Eat the right number of calories. Staying within your calorie limit can help you maintain a healthy weight. Enjoy your food, but eat less. Cook at home so you are in control of your food. Choose lower calorie menu options when eating out. Write down what you eat so you can really keep track of calories.

Be physically active. The health benefits of physical activity increase as you spend more time being active, so start by doing what you can, for at least 10 minutes at a time.

Read food labels. The Nutrition Facts label can help you quickly and easily make smart food choices. Check calories, and choose foods with lower calories, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. Note the serving size of the nutrition analysis. The nutrition analysis is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Check for added sugars, which come under various names.

Food ingredients are listed in order of percentage by weight, so foods with sugars at or near the beginning of the list should be limited.

For more information, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.