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Navigate Your Plate with MyPlate

Jacqueline L’Heureux, PharmD


Feb 24th, 2015

Healthy Lifestyle

Many have grown up with the image of a food pyramid explaining dietary recommendations. However, as obesity trends increased, there was a need to re-evaluate and reorganize these nutritional guidelines to make it easier to understand and follow. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) retired the food pyramid in 2011 and introduced the new food icon MyPlate. MyPlate serves as a tool to help guide mealtime choices to provide a healthy, well-balanced diet. The plate includes space for fruits, vegetables, dairy, and protein. The goal of MyPlate is to help control caloric intake while making healthier dietary choices. Below is a breakdown of the different sections of MyPlate.



Most fruits provide a good source of vitamins and fiber while being naturally low in calories, fat and sodium. Fruits should take up a little less than one-quarter of your plate. Whole fruits are preferred over fruit juices, as whole fruit provides more fiber and vitamins. Vary your fruits because each kind provides different nutritional content. Buy both fruits and vegetables in season, as they are most flavorful and affordable during their peak season.


Vegetables should take up a little more than one quarter of your plate.  Vegetables can be a great source for vitamin A and C, folate, fiber, and potassium. Fiber helps improve overall digestive function, decrease risk of heart disease, and helps you feel full for longer. Starchy vegetables, such as corn, green peas, and white potatoes, provide more calories per gram and are less nutritious. Healthy vegetables choices include dark green vegetables, broccoli, kale, carrots, peppers, onions, and cabbage.


Slightly more than one-fourth of a meal should contain grains and at least half of daily grain intake should be whole grains. Refined grains usually lack certain vitamins and fiber that whole grains contain. Though enriching the grain may add back vitamins, minerals, and fiber, it does not replenish them entirely. Whole grains include brown rice, whole-wheat flour, and oatmeal. Examples of refined grains include white bread, white rice, crackers, and cornbread.


Protein should take up somewhat less than one-fourth of your plate. Examples of proteins include meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, and seeds. These foods also offer a great source of iron, magnesium, and zinc. Protein is the building block for muscles, bones, and cartilage. It is important to pay attention to the amount of fat and cholesterol in certain protein-rich foods; fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb are high in unhealthy fat and cholesterol. Click here to see more examples of protein.


Dairy includes most foods made of milk, such as yogurt, cheese, and tofu. Foods such as cream cheeses, cream, and butter have little to no calcium and should not be considered a serving of dairy. Most people should have one serving of dairy with each meal. Calcium and dairy products have been shown to maintain bone health, lower blood pressure, and reduce risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Click here for additional sources of calcium.


Intake of healthy fats (unsaturated fats) is important because it can help reduce cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Canola, olive and sesame oil, as well as foods such as avocados and fish can provide a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. However, they are high in calories and should be consumed in moderation.

Helpful Tips

Calories that add little nutritional value to our diet are referred to as “empty calories.” Examples include sweets, such as candy and sugary drinks. Limiting these to occasional treats is one trick to reduce total calories in your diet. Managing your meals using MyPlate may help serve as a guide to keep track of daily calories consumed. Though this might seem challenging at first, the USDA provides a great guide to track daily activities and calories, plus they provide nutritional facts on food.


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Joanna Bodnar, PharmD Candidate 2015

Jacqueline L’Heureux, PharmD 

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