Who remembers learning about the food pyramid in school? With the grains on the bottom then fruits and veggies, dairy and protein, and the triangle of “terrible” foods at the top? Anyone remember how many servings of each were listed? Yeah, me neither. I even studied it for my degree and still can’t remember. I’m pretty sure the recommendation was 7-9 servings of grains but what is a serving size? Who does this apply to? Should you feed your 5 year old 7 pieces of bread a day? So many questions and so few answers. Thankfully, the USDA decided to revamp their nutrition recommendations to something easier to understand, easier to remember, and easier to apply. Cue: MyPlate.
MyPlate is the most recent healthy eating guideline released by our government and, while I don’t believe it applies well to everyone, I do think it works GREAT for kids. As a parent it’s hard to remember whether or not you fed your child(ren), let alone if they’ve had 4 servings of whole grains for the day. Using my plate, however, you just have to focus on remembering to feed your child, let MyPlate help you know what and how much they should be eating. So what should be on your sprouts’ plate? Let’s discuss…
Littles need protein just like adults do. However, if you’re feeding them Michael-Phelps’-sized portions, they’re probably eating too much (anyone else obsessed with the Olympics right now?). Protein should take up ¼ of your child’s plate. (Disclaimer: if your plate is a 12-inch platter, this method is probably not going to work for you. Think 8-10 inches.) So what counts as protein? All kinds of yummy foods: meat, chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, beans, tofu, nuts, and seeds. If that’s not clear enough for you, their protein serving should be about the size of your little’s palm. You may have heard this rule for adults, but it works for kids too. As your child grows, their palm grows, and their need for protein grows! I love that trick.
While protein’s make up ¼, grains make up another ¼ on the same half of the plate (if that makes no sense, just look at the pic). Grains include a whole host of foods including anything made from rice, wheat, oats, cornmeal, barley, and any other cereals. Examples include: bread, cereal, tortillas, rice, oatmeal, pasta…you get the idea. Grains are an important part of your little one’s diet and whole grains are even better. Even though they are important, they shouldn’t be the majority of the meal. Kids need 1-2 servings of grains at each meal, with a serving being a slice of bread, ½ cup rice or pasta, 1 cup cereal, etc. Keep in mind that littler children need littler portions (maybe even less than 1 whole serving per meal)
FRUITS and VEGETABLES
These should take up the other half of your child’s plate. MyPlate separates these 2, but I think they are both equally nutritious and are pretty interchangeable. The point is that fruits and vegetables should have an important place at EVERY meal. Whether your child eats them or not, make sure they understand that they will be served, always.
MyPlate also includes dairy with each meal (listed in the upper right hand corner as the beverage). While adults really don’t need dairy with every meal, kids should aim for about 3 servings of dairy each day (if you do the math, that’s 1 serving per meal). In my humble opinion, dairy doesn’t have to just come as a beverage (although milk does make an excellent beverage). This could also include yogurt, cheese and soy products. However, you’re children will be disappointed to know that ice cream does not count…
In order for MyPlate to really work in your life, I have a few comments. Remember, these are just guidelines. MyPlate indicates what foods should be included at meals, and relative portions. If you have a 15 year old who is in football training right now, they are probably going to need a little more than the MyPlate recommendation, but you can still apply the portions in relation to each other, i.e. half of the meal fruits and vegetables. The other key to MyPlate is variety. Be sure to offer a variety in each category. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but variety is the spice of life. Want to make sure your child is getting their vitamins and minerals ? VARIETY! Mix it up, use MyPlate as a guideline, and forget about the pyramid. MyPlate is totes on point…or whatever the cool thing is to say these days…