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Filed under: Nutrition

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.

A New Eating Guide: MyPlate

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The USDA has a new symbol for good nutrition, emphasizing higher proportions of fruits and vegetables.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released MyPlate as the new Dietary Guidance graphic. MyPlate replaces the Food Guide Pyramid and is split into five sections for fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein. The new recommendations focus on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables (half a “plate”). Go to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov for the new graphic and recommendations. For the USDA press release issued about MyPlate, click here.

New cooking temperature for pork

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The USDA recommendations for cooking various types of meet offer important and useful guidelines, including some changes from previous directions.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new cooking guidelines for meats include a reduced “safe” cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork to 145ºF (down from 160ºF). They recommend using a food thermometer and allowing a three-minute rest time before serving. For whole cuts of beef, veal, and lamb, the safe temperature is the same—145ºF—but the new guidelines add a three-minute rest time after these meats, too, are removed from a heat source.  For additional information, including the recommendations for cooking ground meats and poultry, read the new cooking guidelines.

What is WIC?

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Free nutrition-related services are available to low-income families, including military; in 2009, more than 9 million women, children, and infants benefited.

WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. It provides food, nutrition counseling, and access to health services for low-income women, infants, and children. Eligibility to receive services is based on income, state residency, and “nutrition risk.” WIC is available for military families who qualify based on income. For more information, including eligibility and program services, see the Nutrition Program Facts.

 

Pistachios: A heart-healthy snack

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If you are nuts about nuts, the good news is that pistachios are good for you, even if you are trying to lose weight.

Pistachios contain the “good fat”—unsaturated (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated)—which can help blood cholesterol levels and decrease risk of heart disease. They are also a good source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And if you’re watching your weight, pistachios can still be a healthy choice for a snack, as shown in a recent study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Read more about this study and about other pistachio health benefits at www.pistachiohealth.com.

Childhood obesity

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Obesity has become a major problem among children that leads to other serious health risks.

Childhood obesity has become a significant health problem, putting children and adolescents at risk for developing asthma, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, as well as other serious health risks. The American Academy of Pediatrics website has a parenting corner, helpful links, and resources on this topic.  See their “Overweight and Obesity” section.

New Army resilience training program targets NCOs and spouses

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The two-week Soldier 360° resilience training program for Warfighters and their spouses is being implemented by the Army with a focus on NCOs.

Soldier 360° is a resilience program being implemented by the Army for Warfighters who have combat experience and their families. In fact, Warfighters take the second half of the two-week class with their spouses, while childcare is provided for those who need it. It’s aimed at non-commissioned officers who are nominated by their commanders. The course provides Warfighters with information and strategies on stress management, anger management, relaxation, health, communication, conflict resolution, nutrition, sleep, combat stress, and management of non-optimal behaviors. It also teaches physical fitness, yoga, meditation, conditioning, injury prevention, and pain management. The program combines financial counseling with Military and Family Life Consultant Program counselors, acupuncturists, physicians, and a myriad of others. Read another article from Army.mil for more information.

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.

Do food names influence your food choices?

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A recent study has shown that dieters are more susceptible than non-dieters to foods with healthy-sounding names.

A recent study by The Journal of Consumer Research looked at the impact of changing the name of a food and how it affects the food choices made by dieters and non-dieters alike. Calling potato chips “veggie chips” and a milk shake a “fruit smoothie” can lead people to make unhealthy food choices. Read more about the study in the article “Many Dieters Eating Wrong Food Due to Misleading Labeling.”

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