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    December 11, 2023

    Putting MyPlate into Action

    Get back to nutrition basics! If it's been a while since you've reviewed the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, or if you are still visualizing a food pyramid, now is the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with the MyPlate model. Read below for tips on balancing your plate with MyPlate.

    The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 has goals of helping Americans reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health. The MyPlate icon provides a visual guide to help Americans make smart food choices. Rather than trying to make many changes at once, focus on adding a few health-promoting tips from one food group each week. When you feel comfortable with the new practices that you’ve adopted, gradually add a few from another food group.


    • Keep a bowl of whole fruit on the table, counter, or in the refrigerator.
    • Buy fruits that are dried, frozen, and canned (in water or juice) as well as fresh, so that you always have a supply on hand.
    • Refrigerate cut-up fruit in an airtight container to enjoy later.
    • Buy fresh fruit in-season. It may be less expensive and more flavorful.
    • When short on time, consider buying packages of pre-cut fresh fruit (such as melon or pineapple chunks) for a healthy snack in seconds. Choose packaged fruits that do not have added sugars.
    • At breakfast, top your cereal with bananas or peaches; add blueberries to pancakes; drink 100% orange or grapefruit juice. Or try a fruit mixed with low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt.
    • At lunch, pack a tangerine, banana, or grapes to eat, or choose fruits from a salad bar. Individual containers of fruits like peaches or applesauce are easy and convenient.
    • At dinner, add crushed pineapple to coleslaw, or add mandarin oranges, berries, or grapes to a salad.
    • Add fruit like pineapple or peaches to kabobs as part of a barbecue meal.
    • Prepare chicken dishes that incorporate fruit, such as chicken with apricots or mango chutney.
    • Make a Waldorf salad with apples, celery, walnuts, and a low-fat dressing.
    • For dessert, have baked apples, baked pears, or a fruit salad.


    • Substitute a whole-grain product for a refined product – such as eating whole grain bread instead of white bread or farro instead of white rice. It’s important to substitute the whole-grain product for the refined one, rather than adding on the whole-grain product.
    • For a change, try quinoa or whole-wheat pasta. Try quinoa stuffing in baked red peppers or tomatoes and whole-wheat macaroni in macaroni and cheese.
    • Use whole grains in mixed dishes, such as barley in vegetable soup or stews and bulgur wheat or quinoa in casserole or stir-fries.
    • Create a whole grain pilaf with a mix of barley, wild rice, brown rice, broth, and spices. For a special touch, stir in toasted nuts or chopped dried fruit.
    • Experiment by substituting whole wheat or oat flour for up to half of the flour in pancake, waffle, muffin, or other flour-based recipes. They may need a bit more baking soda or baking powder.
    • Use whole-grain bread, oats, or cracker crumbs in meatloaf.
    • Try rolled oats or a crushed, unsweetened whole grain cereal as breading for baked chicken, fish, veal cutlets, or eggplant.


    • Try crunchy vegetables raw, grilled, roasted, or lightly steamed.
    • Quickly “zap” vegetables in the microwave. White or sweet potatoes can be baked quickly this way.
    • Buy fresh local vegetables in season, when possible. They cost less and are likely to be at peak flavor.
    • Stock up on frozen vegetables like spinach, green beans, or carrots for quick and easy preparation. Steam, microwave, sauté or add to soups, omelets, and stir fries.
    • Buy vegetables that are easy to prepare: pre-washed bags of salad greens with baby carrots and grape tomatoes make a salad in minutes.
    • Packages of baby carrots, celery sticks, or mini bell peppers make quick snacks.


    • Boneless skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets are the leanest poultry choices.
    • The leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts (round eye, top round, bottom round, round tip), top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts.
    • The leanest pork choices include pork loin, tenderloin, center loin, and ham.
    • Choose extra lean ground meat. The label should indicate 90%, 93% or 95% lean.
    • Trim away all the visible fat from meats and poultry before cooking.
    • Drain off any fat that appears during cooking meats.
    • Broil, grill, roast, poach, or boil meat, poultry, or fish instead of frying.
    • Prepare dry beans and peas without added fats.
    • Choose and prepare foods without high fat sauces or gravies.
    • Try adding more plant-based sources of proteins, including tofu, tempeh, seitan, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
    • Marinate tofu and serve in a pita with a variety of veggies or skip the tofu and create a veggie sandwich by adding beans and hummus for added protein.
    • Skip or limit breading on proteins; it causes the food to soak up more fat during frying, adding fat and calories.
    • Choose fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, and herring. Seafood offers a variety of lean proteins.
    • Canned tuna and salmon, along with canned and dry beans and legumes, offer shelf stable protein options.
    • Choose nuts or seeds as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes. Use nuts or seeds in place of animal protein. Nut and seed butters are another way to add protein to meals.


    • Include fat-free or low-fat milk as a beverage with meals.
    • If you usually drink whole milk, switch gradually to fat-free milk, to lower saturated fat and calories. Try reduced fat (2%), then low-fat (1%), and finally nonfat (skim).
    • Top cut-up fruit with flavored fat-free Greek yogurt for a quick dessert.
    • If you drink cappuccinos or lattes, ask for them with nonfat (skim) milk.
    • Add nonfat or low-fat milk instead of water to oatmeal and hot cereals.
    • Choose nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt as a snack and use it in a dip for fruits or vegetables.
    • Make fruit and yogurt smoothies in the blender.
    • Top casseroles, soups, stews, or vegetables with shredded low-fat cheese.
    • Top a baked potato with nonfat or low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese.
    • If you avoid milk because of lactose intolerance, choose lactose-free milk, or consume the enzyme lactase before consuming milk products. Aged cheeses and yogurt contain little or no lactose.
    • Calcium choices for those who do not consume milk products can include calcium fortified juices, cereals, breads, and soy beverages; canned fish (sardines, salmon with bones) soybeans and other soy products (soy yogurt, soy nuts, tempeh), dried beans, and some leafy greens (collard and turnip greens, kale, bok choy). The amount of calcium that can be absorbed from these foods varies.


    These are not a food group, therefore are not a part of the MyPlate icon. However, they provide essential nutrients.

    • Make your own salad dressings at home with fresh or dried herbs and olive or canola oil.
    • Some foods naturally high in healthful oils are nuts, olives, avocados, salmon, sardines, trout, herring, and tuna.


    Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugars. provides more information about added sugars, which are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those consumed as part of milk and fruits.

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    Putting MyPlate into Action

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