Building a Balanced Meal with MyPlate
Written by Joel T. Hollow, RDN, CD. Joel is a registered dietitian for Mayo Clinic in La Crosse, WI.
MyPlate is a tool developed by the USDA designed to reflect the recommended diet based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It replaced the Food Guide Pyramid in 2011 to better represent components and proportions of a healthy meal. MyPlate is composed of five major food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and protein. The idea behind MyPlate is to give a visual representation of what a balanced meal should look like.
- Fruits and vegetables are recommended to account for about half of your plate. Fruit and vegetable variety is also important. The components of fruits and vegetables that give them their color, taste, and smell also provide specific health benefits. Therefore, it is recommended to “eat the rainbow” or a variety of different colors of produce.
- Grains are recommended to fill about a quarter of your plate. In addition, it is recommended that half of those grains are whole grains. Whole grains provide a variety of nutrients including carbohydrates, fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium. Examples of whole grains are oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley, and corn.
- Protein should make up about a quarter of your plate. Protein has many functions in the body including tissue repair, bolstering immune function and aiding in muscle growth. Choosing a variety of lean protein sources is important to provide your body with a variety of nutrients. Be sure to choose non-meat sources of protein as well. Examples of plant-based protein sources include peas, beans, lentils, nuts, chickpeas, and tofu.
- Dairy/dairy alternatives is the last component of a balanced meal. It is important to choose low-fat or fat-free options when possible in order to limit saturated fat intake. Dairy is important because it provides a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Examples of dairy include milk, yogurt, and cheese. Dairy alternatives include fortified soy and nut milks and yogurt made from these milks.
For recipes, meals plans, and nutrition information through every stage of life visit MyPlate | U.S. Department of Agriculture