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New Healthy Eating Plate for Americans


healthy eating plate

There’s a new healthy eating plate, called MyPlate, to help all Americans balance their plate and eat healthier!

In an ongoing quest to communicate with the American public about nutrition, the USDA has released a new symbol of healthy eating—MyPlate.

I’m happy about this new icon because it falls right in line with the way I teach families how to plan healthy meals already. When you look at MyPlate, you can see that the plate is divided into 4 sections (quarters) and each section represents a food group. Add a glass of low-fat milk or a cup of yogurt and you’ve got a balanced meal. How easy is that?

While it appears easy, the truth is, for many families, it’s not. Barriers to actually getting a meal on the table and having everyone sit down together aside, this new food guide for Americans keeps the idea of what a meal should look like simple.

And we like simple.

The new MyPlate guide emphasizes many messages for Americans, but one important (and implied) idea is to include as many food groups at each meal as you can. This is not an encouragement to overeat–it’s a way to do better with balance and variety at meals–you will still need to keep those portions in check.

And you’ll be happy to know the food groups remain essentially the same:

Although I don’t encourage parents to plate food for their children (I’m in favor of family-style meals–more on that later), having a visual reference such as MyPlate is no doubt a practical tool for families and children. With MyPlate, families may have a better sense of how to balance a meal, how much to serve and where to make up the gaps in nutrition. Even kids can make sense of this new healthy eating plate!

I can already see art projects on paper plates in the classroom or at home…

MyPlate was based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and is designed to help people make healthier and better food choices. It features these messages to help Americans focus and improve upon key behaviors:

Balance Calories

  •  Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
Foods to Increase
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.

Foods to Reduce

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

MyPlate has an interactive website. I invite you to check out MyPlate and the new interactive tools and let me know what you think. Go ahead, it’s free and you have unlimited access.

While no single message, food or icon will solely change human eating behavior, or produce a healthy human, every step towards positive change is a help.  MyPlate isn’t perfect (what is?), but it’s better.

I’ll still be teaching portion awareness, the 90:10 Rule, balance, variety, good fats vs. not-so-good fats, and of course the new MyPlate principles.

I am curious to know what you think about MyPlate?

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  1. I’m 58 and last week had my gall bladder out and need some guidance. I saw a nutritionist yesterday who gave me your web site. She did give me some ideas on foods to eat/avoid, but could you help me come up with some specific examples? I know I will need to start reading labels more now, but just wanted some help.

    1. Hi Charlene–

      I would refer you to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website ( to find a dietitian in your area. This is not my area of expertise–i work with children. Thanks for reading!

  2. Do you have any advice for parents of kids who prefer to eat all protein, or all grains at a given meal rather than a balance of each? My six year old is in a phase where she is opting to skip the veggies all together and is picky about the fruits we’re serving. I’m being patient, letting her decide what to select from the meal we’re serving but worry that the phase may become a longer term habit.

    1. I think your patient approach is correct. Keep providing a well-balanced meal and allow her to choose from what is offered–it probably is just a phase. I would be careful not to compensate after the meal with additional food items–she will just get the message that if she holds out, she’ll eventually get what she wants.
      That being said, you can certainly be strategic with what you offer at snack time to make up the nutrition gaps of meal time. For example, you can offer carrot sticks and hummus (or Ranch dressing) or her favorite fruit with yogurt for a snack if she hasn’t eaten those foods well at meal time.