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Thoughts on the USDA MyPlate Guidelines

Unpopular opinion: I think the USDA ‘MyPlate’ guidelines are actually pretty good.

They aren’t perfect by any means. but what is perfect? I don’t think it’s possible to give out perfect guidelines on healthy eating that are applicable to the entire population.

Here are the guidelines and my thoughts on them:

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

Focus on whole fruits and vary your veggies. Choose fruits and red, orange, and dark-green vegetables such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.

^ Agree. Simple, actionable advice to increase micronutrient and fibre intake.

Include whole grains

Aim to make at least half your grains whole grains. Whole grains provide more nutrients, like fiber, than refined grains.

^ Agree. It’s trendy on Instagram right now to remove or greatly reduce starchy, grain based carbs. I don’t think this is necessary for most people nor does it make the diet more healthy.

Don’t forget the dairy

Complete your meal with a cup of fat-free or low-fat milk. Don’t drink milk? Try a soy beverage (soymilk) as your drink or include low-fat yogurt in your meal or snack.

^ Not necessary for every meal but I agree that dairy is useful in the diet for those who wish to consume it. Calcium intake is essential, if not consuming dairy then calcium needs to be provided via other food sources.

Add lean protein

Choose protein foods such as lean beef, pork, chicken, or turkey, and eggs, nuts, beans, or tofu. Twice a week, make seafood the protein on your plate.

^ Agree. Mostly lean proteins, but there is also nothing drastically unhelpful about less lean sources of protein if consumed in moderation.

Avoid extra fat

Using heavy gravies or sauces will add fat and calories to otherwise healthy choices. 

^ Somewhat questionable wording. I don’t think that adding fat and calories spoils healthy choices nor should they be too heavily vilified. However at a population level adding more fats in without much regard for serving size may result in drastic increases in the calorie content of meals, so I can see why this suggestion has been made.

Overall I think these guidelines are helpful, easy to follow and don't require the gen pop. to do any study on the nutrient content of foods. It's virtually impossible to give out guidelines that will be useful to everyone, I feel these are a great place to start with moving a diet in the general direction of becoming more nutritious and somewhat lower calorie. We could do far worse.


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