From the Pyramid to the Plate
A balanced diet is vital to meet the healthy and disease-free life for everyone. But few people know that the healthy food pyramid is undergoing a paradigm change. What is the basis for this paradigm shift? Well, the symbol for healthy eating is now the plate. The USDA/ US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate campaign changes a lot, but the basics remain pretty much the same when it comes to eating healthy. Healthy eating still involves eating the right kinds of foods and getting the nutrients that are necessary for losing excess body weight and building strong, healthy muscles.
So what does the new plate look like? Well, it contains proteins, grains, veggies, and fruits in distinct sections. Dairy is represented outside the plate. From healthy fats to low glycemic carbs, fruits and vegetables, there are many aspects to healthy eating than previously thought.
The largest group on the food pyramid comprises cereals, pastas, and rice. But in a direct reversal of this, the food plate holds that simple carb based bread and pasta is not what is required. Whole grains are needed for a healthy lifestyle as they are rich in complex carbs. What is the benefit of these? Well, for one, they won’t spike the blood glucose level. Complex carbs should, therefore, be the largest part of daily food consumption.
Using the Plate
The Healthy Eating plate has been created by Harvard nutrition experts for addressing eating deficiencies and making the best nutrition choices. For a healthy and balanced meal, whether it is on a plate or in your fridge, involves using the plate. What is the food mantra provided by the Healthy Plate concept?
#1 Make A Meal Out of Fruits and Veggies
A majority of your meal (nearly half your plate) needs to comprise vegetables and fruits. The aim should be to opt for color plus variety and bear in mind that starch-rich foods such as potatoes don’t count because of their low effect on blood glucose.
#2 Opt for Whole Grained Items Too
At least 1/4th of the plate needs to comprise whole grained foods. These include the following:
- Wheat berries
- Brown Rice
- Whole wheat
- Wholewheat Pasta
#3 Capture the Power of Protein
Another 1/4th of the plate needs to comprise fish, chickens, beans plus nuts. These are healthy and diverse sources of proteins which can be eaten with salads and served with veggies on your plate. Don’t go in for processed or red meats if you value your health.
#4 Healthy Plant Oils Can Work Wonders
Healthy vegetable oil products such as olive, soy, corn, canola, sunflower and peanut are the best choice. Don’t go in for trans-fat rich oils which are partly hydrogenated. Low fat does not equal good health necessarily.
#5 Drink A Lot of Fluids
Make sure you drink water, tea, or coffee though. Don’t opt for drinks with high sugar content or too much dairy or milk. Limit your food to 1-2 servings in a day. If you really want to drink juice, consume limited amounts.
#6 Stay Active
Running, jogging or just plain walking– whatever you choose, make sure that your weight is in control and you stay active. Focus on diet quality and choose the carb type which is healthier. What is meant by that? Choose a diet which has complex carbs, veggies, fruits because this is healthier than simple carbs. Avoid sugar-filled beverages, another major source of calories with less nutritional value in your diet. The healthy eating plate also holds that healthy oils are the key to good health and successful weight loss.
#7 Calories Matter, But Volume Matters Even More
The healthy eating plate does not stress on the regulation of calorific intake. Approximate relative proportion or volume of the food is more important. These are not associated with specific calorific amounts and are not meant to be prescribing calorific intake. The individual’s calorie and nutrient intake requirements vary depending on factors such as:
- Body Size
- Level of Activity
Alcohol in moderation is useful and the healthy eating pyramid as well as the plate complement each other when it comes to eating right and (of course) drinking right.
#8 Enjoy Food, Eat Less
Eating healthy should be enjoyable and if you fill the plate just once per meal, the calorie intake will be balanced. If a normal 9-inch plate is used for eating. it is estimated that five to six hundred calories would be consumed in a day. Basic portion control is essential for weight loss.
#9 Switch to Fat-Free/Low Fat Milk
If you like milk, cheese or yogurt, opt for fat-free or low-fat variants. Why is this healthier? Most people don’t need extra saturated fat and calories coming from higher fat milk or dairy products. Skim milk is the best option because it is as nutrient rich as the high-fat version. Choose foods with the lowest amount of fat.
#10 A Low Sodium Diet is Beneficial
Comparing sodium in foods such as bread, frozen meals, and soup is essential. You need to be on a lookout for the excess salt in processed or snacky foods.
The Food Pyramid Versus Plate
Healthy eating pyramid also meets the needs of a healthy lifestyle namely exercise, vitamin D, weight control and multivitamin supplementation and moderation in alcohol. It was a useful tool for health educationists and professionals. Healthy eating plate and the healthy eating pyramid both reflect changes and a paradigm shift in the way we eat based on research. It was in the 1990s that the USDA postulated the food pyramid. The pyramid was based on initial scientific evidence. But the healthy food plate concept has advanced the connection between dietary habits and health. MyPyramid was replaced by MyPlate– the brainchild of USDA consultants, scientists, experts, and members.
As a complete change in paradigm, the Healthy Eating Plate was proposed by Harvard School of Public Health. Studies have offered evidence of the effect of the healthy food pyramid in preventing disease. A study conducted on 7319 males and females for 19 years found that such people had 25 percent lower risk of dying from any cause and 42 percent lower risk of succumbing to heart disease than people with the lowest scores. Another study conducted found that women following this pyramid’s diet were superior in terms of low-fat foods ingestion, which lowered cardiovascular problems and heart failure risk.
Weight Loss and the Pyramid-Plate Difference
For weight loss, there is a world of difference in terms of what the Healthy Eating Pyramid and the Healthy Eating Plate espouse. Read on to know more.
#1 Less Emphasis on the Grain
The food pyramid was associated with a lot of grains, which filled the largest spot towards the bottom of the pyramid. The plate version, on the other hand, reserves only one quadrant for grains and the emphasis is on whole grains. The stress is not on fruits and veggies in the food pyramid. The plate concept, stresses that half of the plate should be filled with fruits and veggies– this is more than any other food group. Nutrition experts see this as a major improvement since most people fall short of getting at least five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
#2 Fats, Oils, and Sugars are Out
While these appeared on the older pyramid, shown in small quantities with the aim to eat these in smaller portions, these don’t come into play on the plate at all, when it comes to weight loss. Not all fats are created equally and dietary fat optimizes health. Foods included in the plate may contain fat, but this is not mentioned as part of the healthy diet.
#3 Lack of Serving Sizes
The food pyramid created awareness about the servings of foods to be consumed each day, such as 6 to 11 servings of grains. No mention was made of how many servings of a particular food group must be taken in the plate. The assumption is that if one eats off a normal sized plate and the food is not taken in enormous proportions, you should be fine as far as weight loss or weight management is concerned. The US government site even lets users access individualized eating plates. What is the idea behind that? Quite simply, the servings and nutrients depend on the individualized need of each person and this is what makes a difference
#4 Where is the Protein?
Protein is the nutrient present in various food groups, not the actual food group. Fruits, vegetables, grains and milk are represented yet protein, which is a nutrient seems out of place in the food plate as opposed to the pyramid. Critics say protein is already found on foods listed such as grains and milk. This can cause a confusion. But then, the fact should be remembered that protein also includes plant based proteins and not just meat. These are an important part of the diet.
While no single icon can convey the complex factors involved in healthy nutrition and eating, perhaps the plate comes closer as compared to the pyramid, especially when weight loss is considered. The food pyramid was chock-a-block with nutrition facts and tough to understand. The plate, on the other hand, is easy to remember and analyze in terms of the food grains it contains. The USDA/Harvard Health Public School healthy eating/food plate has fond support from many different groups including the American Heart Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
If the dinner plate matches the four quarters and completes one circle, there is a great start to the balanced, nutrient filled meal. Using a divided plate can benefit people to eat their way to a healthy weight. The plate comprises 5 food groupings where the largest area comprises veggies and fruits followed by grains. The ChooseMyPlate.gov website also gives options for those who do not eat or drink dairy products. In a world full of choices, choosing the plate can make a big difference to your weight loss plans.