by Holly F. Lofton, MD

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Out with the old; in with the new. The USDA seems to have recently taken this old adage to heart. In June 2011, “MyPlate” was introduced as a simple, colorful alternative to the Food Pyramid. MyPlate (pictured left) uses a schematic of, you guessed it, a plate divided into four sections (two larger ones designated for vegetable and grains and two smaller sections for fruits and proteins). A “cup” to the side of the plate reminds you to include a dairy product with your meals.

This model is useful for you to educate your children about the components of a balanced meal. It also serves as a healthy reminder to adults about proper portion sizes. The food guide that accompanies MyPlate succinctly emphasizes bare-bones nutrition guidelines that we could all recite as a mantra for avoiding weight gain (see below).


Food Guide
Balancing Calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Foods to Reduce

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals — and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Simply put, these guidelines remind us all to control portions, eat more nutrient-rich foods and to avoid salty, sugary foods.

MyPlate is a good tool to encourage your children and others to eat from all food groups at any given meal. The guidelines that accompany MyPlate provide a good base, especially for children who need direct rules to follow. I recommend visiting and selecting a few of the available links to further broaden the knowledge provided by MyPlate. You must read a little deeper in order to distinguish which grains are whole grains versus simple carbohydrates. Also, it would be preferred if the guidelines stated “Switch to fat-free or 1 percent dairy” instead of just “milk.” Too many of us consider full-fat cheese as their dairy of choice, and a portion size of cheese is definitely less than “a cup.”

Always remember, all fruits are not created equal; therefore, we should be cautioned to choose fewer high glycemic load fruits, such as bananas, and to choose more super-foods, like blueberries. Finally, MyPlate portions are estimates. Therefore, it is wise to follow the food plate guidelines and limit calorie-dense foods, such as bacon, as portions of these should be smaller to avoid weight gain. Enjoy making “MyPlate” YOUR plate!


About the Author:
Holly F. Lofton, MD, is currently an Associate Physician at the Geisinger Center for Nutrition and Weight Management in Danville, PA. Her specialty is geared toward adapting life-long lifestyle changes that lead to successful weight-loss as well as caring for patients undergoing bariatric surgery. Dr. Lofton is a member of the OAC Advisory Board.