Whether you’re a parent cooking for kids or just an adult trying to fend for yourself, making healthy and nutritious meals isn’t always easy. For many people, a “healthy” breakfast means remembering to grab a granola bar before running out the door, while a “nutritious” dinner means ordering from a food delivery app at the end of a long day.
However, as we’ve talked about before, preparing and eating healthy meals isn’t as difficult as many people make it out to be. And, in an effort to make it even easier for parents and others, the U.S. Department of Agriculture created MyPlate.
What Is MyPlate?
MyPlate is a guide that helps you identify what types of food you and any children in your life should be eating throughout the day. It uses simple colors and imagery, ensuring that both adults and kids have no problem understanding the different parts.
The four food groups listed include:
- Fruits and vegetables, which should make up half of the food you eat during the day
- Grains, which make up a quarter
- Protein, which makes up a quarter
In addition to those sections, the USDA also recommends that children and adults get milk or another dairy source.
Let’s elaborate a bit more on the different sections included in the guide.
Green = vegetables
As you probably know, vegetables are one of the most important food groups. Because of that, they compose one of the largest sections on MyPlate.
Vegetables are great for children and adult health alike. Different vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and potatoes contain essential vitamins and nutrients such as iron, fiber, and magnesium.
Don’t worry about always using fresh veggies when cooking. Frozen or canned alternatives provide the same nutritional benefits, often for a lower price!
Red = fruits
Fruits are another essential part of any balanced diet. Apples, berries, grapes, and other fruits contain potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and many other nutrients that young and old bodies need.
Like vegetables, the great thing about fruits is that canned and frozen varieties provide the same benefits. However, be aware that fruit juice often has high amounts of sugar. Because of that, whole fruits are usually the better option.
Orange = grains
Grains refer to any food that comes from oats, wheat, barley, or cornmeal. That includes foods like bread, pasta, rice, and cereal.
For the most part, you’ll want to steer away from refined grains. These are the white alternatives to foods like bread and rice. Many of the valuable nutrients in these foods get removed during processing.
What you do want to load up on, however, are whole grains. Oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice are all foods that many kids enjoy. Whole grains contain many of the nutrients that kids and adults need, as well as dietary fiber.
Purple = protein
Proteins contain valuable vitamins and minerals, like iron, that growing bodies, in particular, require.
Meat is a great source of protein, as are eggs, nuts, seafood, and seeds. Whenever possible, opt for lean meats as opposed to fatty ones.
Blue = dairy
Dairy products are excellent sources of calcium and vitamin D. Both of these help support strong and healthy bones and teeth.
Milk, yogurt, and cheese are some of the best dairy products for kids and adults.
Nutrition made easy
While geared towards parents and children, MyPlate makes it easy for people of all ages and backgrounds to get the calories and nutrients they need throughout the day.
If you’re ever unsure about whether you and your kids are eating the right foods, take the time to figure out what your family’s plate looks like.