Using MyPlate to Guide Your Way at Mealtime

Hawley Poinsett, MS, RDN, LD


Losing that baby weight can be a struggle for so many people.  During pregnancy there is so much focus on adequate weight gain for both the baby and the mother and after your precious baby is born the pressure is quickly shifted to losing weight.  This can lead to a lot of disordered thinking about food.  There are plenty of crash diets recommended out there in order to lose weight but many of them are not sustainable long-term and may even be inadequate in nutrients.  They certainly don’t teach you how to make healthy choices that are also enjoyable.  As a registered dietitian, I often use the USDA’s MyPlate to guide people to healthy eating.  I love this simple tool because it is an easy visual to remember that you can carry in your memory bank to the grocery store, restaurants, and to your kitchen and table every day.  I love it because you can use it as a guide while still having the freedom to choose a variety of foods that you enjoy.  The basic premise of MyPlate is on balance. 

Half of your plate should be made up of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Aim for as much variety in color here as possible.  The pigments that give produce it’s color are actually those vitamins and minerals that make fruits and vegetables a great part of a healthy diet.  Anytime you have an edible seed or peel, be sure to eat it as it provides many nutrients including fiber.

One quarter of your plate should include a lean protein source.  Four ounces of lean beef, pork, chicken or fish fits perfectly here, giving you 30g of protein.  Research shows that 30g of protein turns on your body’s ability to build muscle, balances your blood sugar, keeps you full longer, helps you to lose more weight while maintaining more muscle mass, and can keep you feeling satisfied longer leading to less snacking on unhealthy foods.

One quarter of your plate should include whole grains or starchy vegetables like peas, corn and potatoes.  Try whole grain versions of your every day favorites like brown vs. white rice or whole grain vs. enriched pasta, bread or tortillas.  Foods like oatmeal, cereal, quinoa, beans and lentils also fit here.  Shoot for at least 3g of fiber on the food label.

Pair your colorful plate with an 8-ounce glass of low-fat dairy and you have a complete meal packed with the nutrients your body needs.  Dairy is high in protein and 8 other vitamins and minerals, like calcium.  Studies show that including dairy as part of a weight-loss program can be beneficial.  If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or fortified soymilk.  Most times cows milk can be slowly added back in to test your lactose threshold level.  Foods like yogurt, kefir, and low-fat cheese can also be a good choice.

Now all of this only works if you are using a standard 9-inch plate.  Many plates sold at stores today are much larger than this and using the salad plate can often be a benefit.  Try to eat every 5 hours.  If your meals are going to be spaced farther apart than that, then add a small balanced snack in between like 1oz nuts and a piece of fruit.  Have fun using MyPlate and be sure to honor yourself by listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues!






The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.