MyPlate came as a substitution for optimal nutrition pyramid in 2011. Published by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, it focuses on a pie chart. There is a place for each food, with a plate and a glass. The food is divided into five groups – fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains and dairy products.
The main principle of MyPlate relies on the proper size of a plate for every human being. If a person has more energy needs, automatically the size of the plate becomes bigger. Many other governments have their nutrition guidelines, for example, Eatwell plate in the United Kingdom, Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and many others.
In general, you should consider the following groceries – 30 percent grains, 40 percent vegetables, 10 percent fruit and 20 percent protein. Then you would add smaller intake of dairy products, like milk or yogurt.
The first principle says you can enjoy portions, but you should know when to stop. MyPlate doesn’t strictly prohibit a specific grocery, but relies more on self-control and knowing when you reachthe 80% of your satiety.
The second principle says no overeating and no oversized portions. According to the energy needs of a human and BMR (basal metabolic rate) value, everybody should have an allowed portion. Anything that goes above it can be too much.
The third principle of MyPlate is very strict – make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. Many people don’t eat fruit and vegetables at all. All fruit or vegetable are good. For example, if someone eats peas, only two-fifths of the plate should be peas, while one-tenth should be a fruit, like banana or apple.
The fourth principle says at least half of the grains should be the whole grains. Choosing non-processed grains requires more money but affects positively on human health.
The fifth principle focuses on switching to fat-free or low-fat milk (1%). Many dairy products simply contain too much fat. Milk with more than 1% of fat has more calories and higher energy value.
The sixth principle says you should avoid a food which contains too much sodium, like soup or frozen meals. An excess of sodium has harmful effects to human body.
The seventh principle says local or organic food should always have an advantage. If you don’t know the origin of food, you will hardly know what happened before it came in your body.
The eighth and the last principle focus on drinking water instead of sugary drinks. A pure water is definitively healthier than sugary drinks, but MyPlate doesn’t say how much water you should drink per day.
There are three basic types of MyPlate: Anytime plate, Post workout plate and Plant-Based plate.
Anytime plate is good for you if you are a sedentary person who has no or very little activity. It says five-eighths of the plate should be vegetables, one-eighth fats, and two-eighths proteins. A choice of drink should be water or tea.
Post workout plate is excellent to improve the metabolic response of your body after the exercise. One-half of the plate should be vegetables and fruits, and the other half proteins. You should eat starches as soon as you finish the exercise – pasta, potatoes, rice or bread. The choice of drink is the same. A meal higher in fat will slow the digestion and the assimilation of protein and carbohydrate.
The plant-based plate is excellent for vegetarians. One-half of a plate should be veggies, one-eighth starches, one-eighth fats and two eights proteins. You should serve fruits as a dessert. The choice of the drink remains the same. Vegetarians should expose their bodies to the sun more to decrease the deficit of vitamin D. A supplementation with vitamin B12 is also a good recommendation since plant-based nutrition cannot fulfill the needs for this vitamin.
The biggest criticism of MyPlate comes because of its high carbohydrate diet. This can sometimes be dangerous, especially if someone has type-2 diabetes or hypertension.
Another criticism comes from healthy fats. MyPlate doesn’t mention healthy fats, but only cites fats as unhealthy. There are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which are healthy, but saturated fats are harmful to health. However, a human body needs healthy fats to be able to function properly. Unfortunately, MyPlate is very silent on fats and a very little attention is paid to it.
One more criticism is calculating 100% fresh squeezed fruit or vegetable juices as a part of fruit or vegetable group. It is true there are calories and the drink is getting off the fruit or vegetables, but can it be calculated as a fruit if it is liquid?