Say goodbye to an American icon. The graphic (but confusing) food pyramid that many of us grew up with is now replaced by the new MyPlate icon as America’s dietary guideline. This is the newest in a long line of graphics the US government has used to steer Americans toward healthy eating choices. Many are in favor of it and even critics agree that it is a vast improvement over its predecessors. The burning question on many people’s minds, though, is what will it do for starchy, fatty, nutrient deficient, and calorie laden school lunches?MyPlate and school lunch reform.
School lunch reform has been in the works since December 2010 when President. Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. A staggering one in three American children and teenagers are overweight
or tip the scale to obesity. The hope is that the new USDA MyPlate nutritional guidelines will help reverse this alarming trend
Since the act went into effect, school cafeterias are required to meet USDA established guidelines if they are to receive federal reimbursements for school meals. These revamped guidelines call for more fruits and veggies and less sodium and fat. Since the nutritional standards for cafeteria meals haven’t been revisited for more than 15 years, these stricter standards are long overdue. Students consume about 50% of their total calories in the school cafeteria, so it’s obviously crucial these meals deliver a nutritional, healthy punch.
The new standards recommend that school cafeteria produce contain a cup of vegetables and a cup of fruit. Cafeterias must also supply a mix of colorful green and orange veggies and legumes and cut down on so many starchy vegetables. Whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy products are also guideline requirements. These changes are reflected in the new MyPlate icon. MyPlate food categories.
Approximately half of the plate is comprised of fruit and vegetable categories, followed by whole grains and a passing nod to protein. Though protein is a nutrient, not a food group, it is still included as a category to replace the old “meat and beans” group. The icon has no reference to sugars, fats or oils. To the right of the plate in the upper corner is a blue circle to represent dairy. That could mean milk, yogurt or cheese.
In addition to this graphic icon that delivers nutritional guidelines, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will be the driving force behind school lunch reform as well as federal nutrition assistance programs. The Guidelines include:
Foods to Increase
- Enjoy your food, but eat less.
- Avoid oversized portions.
Foods to Reduce
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
- Make at least half your grains whole grains.
While critics are quick to point out a few glaring (but legitimate) problems with MyPlate, it looks like it will be with us for a while. Still, most agree following its guidelines will not only lead to healthier and trimmer children, but all Americans as well.