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How families can benefit from the USDA’s switch to MyPlate

The USDA’s new MyPlate program is designed to make learning about and practicing healthy eating habits more appealing and more fun for all members of the family.

The USDA announced on June 2, 2011, that its classic food guide Pyramid is being replaced with the easy-to-understand and interactive MyPlate. Using a “familiar mealtime visual,” MyPlate is intended to remind Americans about balancing meals with the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, notable changes to the new guide are the inclusion of more fruits and vegetables, less grains, and the re-categorization of oils as providing “essential nutrients” but not appearing on the plate.

The result is a simple visual graphic of a balanced meal that families can use as a tool to make sure the portions of the major food groups are covered in meals. The simplicity of the graphic helps ALL family members, especially children, become more engaged in what and how much they should be eating. An interactive plate on the MyPlate website allows users to click on each section of the plate, which then displays a page for the selected food group with description, key message, and a list with pictures of single-serving sizes of some common foods in that group. These changes allow families to easily identify what a healthy, balanced meal looks like. Also featured is an Interactive Tools section that enables users to develop personalized plans and learn about specific healthy food choices. When all family members know the basics of healthy eating, mealtime can truly be a shared event.

MyPlate can also encourage family discussions about healthy foods, which can help develop good eating habits by all members of a family. For example, you can find out if there are any particular foods that family members like or dislike, and then find and offer alternatives in the specific food group of a disliked item. This will help eliminate the likelihood that someone will skip the essential healthy components of a meal. Get everyone excited and involved during mealtime! Fun meals shared as a family can promote healthy eating habits for children that they can carry into adulthood and can reinforce family bonding.

Keep in mind that MyPlate isn’t designed as strict rule to be followed—it’s perfectly fine to have dairy products directly on the plate instead of in a cup. Desserts, which are currently placed in the “Empty Calories” section, are okay when consumed in moderation in appropriate portions. You may still have to seek out other sources for how to prepare foods in healthy ways and to determine for the nutrition content of many food items. The information on MyPlate should be used as a tool to build a foundation of knowledge about food choices and help set healthy eating goals for your family. Families should take this change as an opportunity to get the entire family involved in healthy eating.

Fruits & Vegetables are important

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Add these resources to your arsenal of healthy-eating tools to help you get more fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Fruits & Veggies — More Matters™ is a health initiative led by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), to increase daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. Visit the CDC and PBH websites for helpful tips, recipes, and interactive tools to help you increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.

Zinc: Some Facts

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Your body needs zinc for a number of essential functions, so make sure your diet includes foods that provide this nutrient.

Zinc, an essential trace element, is found in cells throughout the body and helps the immune system by fighting off bacteria and viruses. It is also involved in making proteins and DNA and helps wounds heal, among other functions. Oysters are the richest source of zinc, and other good sources include red meat, poultry, crab, lobsters, and fortified cereals. For more information, including the average daily recommended amounts, see the Office of Dietary Supplements’ Fact Sheet.

What is vitamin B12?

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Make sure you get enough vitamin B12 every day. It’s an essential nutrient that must be obtained from food; your body can’t make it.

Vitamin B12 is one of the eight B vitamins and is water-soluble. Our bodies do not store vitamin B12 so we must consume it daily. It is an important nutrient that helps make DNA, the genetic material in cells, and is essential for normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. Good food choices for vitamin B12 are beef liver, clams, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and other dairy products. Read the Office of Dietary Supplement’s Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet for additional information.

Before taking your vitamins, do your research

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Dietary supplements may appear to be a healthier alternative to other medications, but they have their own risks and can interact with medications and one another. Proceed with caution.

The marketing and selling of dietary supplement products has become a 20-billion-plus industry. Consumers are bombarded with ads, and some people turn to them as “healthier” choices to prescription and over-the-counter medications. Consumers should seek products that have been properly manufactured and should be aware of potential interactions with medications. For other important tips, read the article “Prepared Patient: Vitamins & Supplements, Before You Dive In”.

Sources of dark green vegetables

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“Dark green vegetables” are an important component of a healthy diet, but what vegetables other than broccoli are in this class?

We’re supposed to eat a lot of dark green vegetables, but beyond broccoli, what are some good options? For starters, pick a salad that has romaine or dark green leafy lettuce. Bok choy, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach, turnip greens, and watercress are all good dark green vegetables that contain lots of nutrients. Variety is the key to an overall healthy diet, so don’t forget to include some dark green vegetables in your daily diet.

Calorie labels for restaurants and vending machines?

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Concerned about calories when you eat out? The FDA is proposing calorie labeling for restaurants, food establishments, and vending machines with more than 20 locations.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed calorie labeling for chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments, as well as for vending machines. The move is a response in part to the obesity problem in the U.S. and is seen as a way for consumers to have consistent nutritional information when they make food choices. Read the FDA’s “Questions and Answers on the New Menu and Vending Machines Nutrition Labeling Requirements” for more information

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Food dyes and hyperactivity: Is there a link?

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In the debate over food dyes and hyperactivity in children, the FDA feels there is not enough evidence to support any action.

Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and other dyes are artificial colorings allowed in foods in the U.S., yet there is a long-standing debate over whether food dyes contribute to hyperactivity in children. The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Advisory Committee met the last week of March and determined that there is not enough evidence to support the link between food dyes and hyperactivity in children. For now, there will be no warning labels on food products containing dyes.

Can eating a big breakfast help you lose weight?

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A recent German study provides evidence to challenge the common belief that eating a big breakfast can help you lose weight.

You may have heard time and time again that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that eating a big breakfast could help you lose weight. One explanation for this claim is that starting the day with a big breakfast prevents food cravings and induces weight loss. Is this true? And is there scientific evidence to support this claim?

Some scientific findings suggest that consuming an energy-rich breakfast causes a person to eat less during the rest of the day. Other findings suggest that increasing the size of breakfast is linked to overall greater food intake. A WebMD article examined this conflicting evidence in light of a recent study conducted by a group of German scientists at the Else-Kroner-Fresenius Center of Nutritional Medicine, Technical University of Munich. Naturally, a study has to be well designed and executed in order for the results to hold up to scrutiny by the scientific community. In this case, which involved a large group of participants, several measures were introduced to encourage accurate record keeping and sound statistics to analyze the results.

Generally speaking, the study suggests that individuals who consume bigger breakfasts in hopes of losing weight may actually end up consuming more calories than anticipated, as they are likely to eat the same amounts of food during lunch and dinner that they would following a small breakfast. This particular finding is worth sharing because it creates awareness of this behavior and may encourage people to consciously watch what they eat for lunch and dinner if they do have a big breakfast or, alternatively, reduce the size of their breakfast. This could be a key for people in their efforts to maintain or lose weight.

All the same, we wish to remind readers that there is no magic formula when it comes to losing weight. Well, maybe there is…

Higher Caloric Expenditure + Lower Caloric Intake = Weight Loss

This is a good general formula to keep in mind in your efforts to lose or maintain your weight. So for instance, while being physically active increases your caloric expenditure, reducing a high-fat diet lowers your caloric intake. And in this instance, refraining from eating a bigger breakfast than usual could contribute to reducing your caloric intake for the day.

In short, we encourage you to eat regular, healthy meals. However, if you decide to eat a bigger-than-usual breakfast, balance it out by eating less during the rest of the day. We hope that the results of this study help you make informed decisions about the number of calories you consume for breakfast.

Women and heart disease

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Heart disease is the number-one killer for both men and women. Do you know how to reduce your risk?

Heart disease is the number-one killer for both men and women. A well-balanced diet, along with regular exercise, can reduce the risk of heart disease. New heart disease guidelines were recently issued, with particular focus on illnesses that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in women. For more information, read the news release and information about the new guidelines, which include information about the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign.

 

 

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