Diabetes Self-Management Blog

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced something big last week: They ditched the Food Guide Pyramid and welcomed MyPlate. If you even remember the Food Pyramid, you might vaguely recall that it was first introduced in 1992, and then revised in 2005. And if you’re like most people, you probably found the pyramid to be rather unhelpful, to say the least. Even dietitians didn’t have a whole lot of positive things to say about the pyramid.

Robert Post, deputy director for the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, and his team spent two years working on the plate and its Web site. It was unveiled last Thursday and presented by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Reasons Why the Plate Makes Sense
Most Americans eat from a plate. Granted, some of us eat out of bowls or out of plastic containers, or out of the box, but how many of you ever ate from a pyramid? Plates are pretty standard and most people can relate to them.

Tip: Use a 9-inch plate if you’re interested in controlling your weight (and your blood glucose). Many plates these days are about 12 inches in diameter,which means you’re likely to fill your plate with more food, which means more calories consumed, which means weight gain, which means…you get the point.

It’s easy. The 2005 food pyramid was a little complicated. All those vertical stripes in different colors. What did they mean? Sure, they were a guide to help consumers figure out how much of a particular food group to eat, but that somehow backfired. At least the original food pyramid was divided up into layers, but again, it left more than a few people scratching their heads as to what those layers really meant.

Tip: If you’re new to diabetes or meal planning, or just looking for a simple way to think about food, the plate may work for you.

It’s balanced. Take a look at the new plate if you haven’t done so already. Note that it’s divided into four sections: vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein. On the side is dairy. No longer are fat and sugar represented. Now, you may or may not agree with the proportions of the plate, and some of you may not drink milk or eat meat, for example, but it’s hard to refute that the food groups aren’t represented. In fact, the sections of the plate aren’t necessarily supposed to be proportional because everyone is different in terms of what their nutritional needs are. Keep in mind that the plate is a general guideline to help get you started.

Plate Basics
MyPlate incorporates concepts from the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines (thank goodness), which are as follows:

Balancing calories
• Enjoy your food, but eat less.
• Avoid oversized portions.

Tip: You don’t necessarily have to count calories. Using an average-sized plate (and not heaping portions too high, except maybe for vegetables) can help you keep your portions and calories in check. If you want more guidance and don’t already have a meal plan, MyPlate.gov can provide you with an eating plan based on your age, sex, weight, height, and activity level.

Foods to increase
• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
• Make at least half your grains whole grains.
• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Tip: Yes, fruits, grains, and milk (or yogurt) are carbohydrate, and when you have diabetes, portions of these foods need to be controlled. But you don’t have to cut them out. Fresh fruit, a lot of vegetables, and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread can definitely be part of a diabetes eating plan. Also, if you think milk or yogurt is too high in carbohydrate, try Greek-style yogurt, which contains more protein and less carbohydrate than regular yogurt.

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

Tip: The new Dietary Guidelines advise people to consume no more than 2300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, but if you are 51 years old or older, are African American, and/or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease, your goal is no more than 1500 mg of sodium per day. Keeping your sodium intake that low is no small feat, but it can be done. It will mean becoming an expert label reader and choosing more fresh, less processed foods. As far as those sugary drinks go, well, we’ve talked about those before. Shy away from them and go for water, seltzer water, or tea.

I’m interested in hearing what you think of MyPlate (good and bad!), and if you do like it, how (or if) you plan to use it as part of your diabetes management.

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