Make MyPlate your plate!

Nearly two months ago, I posted “The Mighty Calorie!“, where we explored the fact that eating as little as 250 extra calories a day could result in packing on an extra 24 pounds per year.  So what parts of your diet can you look at to try to cut down those sneaky extra calories?  Two places in particular:  what you eat and how much you eat.  This week, we’re going to touch on the first of those two problems.

BurgerThe average diet today isn’t nearly as balanced as it should be.  To make my point, ask yourself something:  how do you plan your meal?  Do you think about the meat item as the “main” item of your meal?  Do you plan the rest of the meal around whatever meat selection you’ve made, especially for lunch and dinner?  If so, you’re not alone…most people do!  When you go out to eat, do you have the meal with two chicken breasts (typically six ounces each) or the twelve ounce steak if you’re celebrating?  Do you commonly see menus and meals that have 1/4 pound to 1/2 pound burgers available?  Again, most people do, and most people enjoy those meals.  However, as I mentioned in my last post, “Get Past Your Diet Failure!“, the highly recommended DASH diet recommends that you only eat six ounces of meat per day.  Again, think on your average meal.  If you’re like many, you eat six ounces of meat per meal, if not more.  There’s certainly no balance there.

Let’s look at vegetables.  Did you know that there are five different classifications of vegetables?  Dark green (such as kale, spinach, and broccoli), starchy (such as potatoes and corn), red and orange (such as squashes and peppers), beans and peas (such as kidney beans and split peas), and the “others” catch-all (such as green beans, beets, and zucchini).  Do you eat from all five groups, or are you again like most, sticking to a select few, like corn and potatoes?  Again, look at restaurant meals, and note that most of them have potato (be it mashed, baked, or as french fries) as the primary vegetable, not vegetables like kale, squash, lentils, brussels sprouts, beets, or turnips.  That’s definitely not balanced.


Finally, let’s look at fruits.  How often do you include fruit as part of your meal, besides breakfast?  Some restaurants may offer a fruit cup as a side, but not very many do. Most people try to get their fruit through desserts–but I assure you, that blueberry pie has much more negative aspects (high-calorie, high-fat, high-sugar) than positive.  Again, no balance.

So what’s the solution to get more balance in your meals?  In my opinion, the idea of MyPlateMyPlate.  MyPlate is the next step after the outdated food pyramid model.  It’s a visual example of what types of foods should be on your plate every meal.  MyPlate’s largest recommendation, as you can see to the right, is that half of your plate every meal should consist of fruits and vegetables.  The other half should be roughly split between grains (such as rice, breads, and pasta) and your protein (meat).  Lastly, a dairy item should definitely be included–but don’t limit yourself to milk!  Have some yogurt topped with fruit for dessert, or add a bit of cheese to your meal.

So, next time you sit down to a meal, take a look at your plate.  Does it match MyPlate?  If not, what could you do to nudge your plate to match up a bit more?  Next week, we’ll talk about a related topic to MyPlate–portion sizes.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, leave them below!


Get past your diet failure!

I’d like to talk about something that is very popular this time of year–dieting.

Ugh!  Diets!

I’m not particularly fond of the idea of a diet.  First off–most people don’t really like to diet, because most people don’t enjoy having what food they want to eat restricted.  Secondly, most diets have a beginning and an end, which is a perfect recipe for long-term failure.  Finally, most (but not all!) diets are just flat unhealthy for you.  Let’s explore these three gripes.

#1:  Diets are just too restrictive!

Let’s be truthful–not many people enjoy a diet where they can’t have what they want, or they’re “forced” to eat something they don’t particularly enjoy.  I can’t think of a faster way for someone to fall off the wagon!  The “Cabbage Soup” diet, for example–which relies on a daily consumption of cabbage soup with other select items based on the day.  Are you really going to stick to the diet after a week of eating cabbage soup every day?  Another example is the “Beverly Hills” diet, where you’re limited to fruit ONLY for the first ten days–that’s a good way to end up hating all types of fruit.  Any diet that has a “severe” restriction is something you (and anyone else, for that matter), will just be too difficult to stick to.  People have a limited amount of self-control, and that would drain it far too fast.

#2:  The end of the diet!  Huzzah!

Mmm...cake!As I said above, I’m not a fan of a diet and it’s “end”.  How many times have you heard of folks that do wonderfully on their diet, drop 10 pounds, and sadly put 15 pounds back in in the next month?  The reason for that is our “end-of-diet” mentality–we’ve done such a good job sticking to a restrictive diet that we reward ourselves by eating things we shouldn’t–like that daily dessert we cut out during the diet.  Poof!  There goes all our hard work!

#3:  Most diets are just flat unhealthy for you!

Many diets, especially ones that preach restriction and removal of a certain food type, are just flat unhealthy for you! The very popular “Paleolithic” diet, for example, disallows grains, legumes (e.g. beans and peanuts), and dairy products.  That’s limiting important nutrients like dietary fiber (which makes you feel more full, longer, as well as other benefits), manganese (important to keep your metabolism running well), B vitamins (also important to your metabolism), and calcium (important for many body functions and bone health), just to name a few.  Often, people supplement to cover inadequacies in the diet, but it’s always better on your body to get your  nutrients from the food.

So what’s the solution?  A recent article on the U.S. News website said it best–a diet that’s actually a lifestyle change, and one I highly recommend–the DASH diet.  It was a diet that was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to combat high blood Fruitspressure, and one that has numerous scientific studies backing up its success.  It is designed with the philosophy of eating everything we’re supposed to (and want to) in moderation.  By increasing our vegetables and fruits and eating moderate servings of everything else we enjoy, the DASH diet does not restrict, has no ending to fall on, and is well rounded enough to be (in my opinion, as well as many others) the healthiest “diet” out there.  Take a look at the details of the DASH diet here.