Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Choose MyPlate, Please!

The First Lady helps Americans with healthier menu options for a healthier plate.

As I look at the new MyPlate icon presented today by First Lady Michelle, USDA’s Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak and US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, I am reminded of a young boy at a gathering who had nothing but meatballs and cookies and on his plate.

“You’re plate doesn’t have anything green on it”, I said to him, as I suggested he get some of the lovely salad and fruit that was also being offered. Reluctantly, he headed over the table with the fruit and salad.
With the new MyPlate icon, kids and parents everywhere can make better food choices.
The USDA and First Lady Michelle Obama launch new icon to help Americans choose healthy menu items, and portion sizes. The icon is a departure from MyPyramid. Visit
"This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we're eating and as a mom, I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work, we're already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew. So the last thing we need to be is the nutritionist in the family as well. But we do have time to take a look at our kids' plates. As long as they're half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we're golden. That's how easy it is."

After the MyPlate launch, Surgeon General Benjamin and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsak spoke with the media in a live press conference. Vilsak admitted that he couldn’t navigate the former USDA food pyramid, butthat with the new MyPlate icon, he says he “gets it”.  
The MyPlate icon suggests a typical meal plate should have the following: fruit, grains, a protein and a vegetable.
“This is what healthy choice looks like”, said Vilsak who admitted he has struggled with his own poor eating habits. “We’re not suggesting that you never have a cookie, but it’s about making better food choices. MyPlate is simple; everyone can use this as a guide”, said Vilsak, calling the new icon “important” and “something we should pay attention to”.
The new icon also focuses on portion control. Explaining how his plate used to look when he eat, Vilsak said, “A steak took up ¾ of my plate. With MyPlate it’s about portion control”, he said.
Smaller portions help discourage over eating (or supersizing a fast food order), which can lead to extra weight gain. (There goes your favorite Aunt's potato salad this barbeque season).

The old food Pyramid structure has been udpated to a more simplistic guide with MyPlate.
But we are Americans, and most of us want to eat healthy, to be healthy.Surgeon General Benjamin admitted it was difficult for her to eat healthy. “I fly a lot and it’s hard to find a healthy meal when I’m on the road. It shouldn’t be difficult to eat healthy”.
Benjamin pointed out that Americans spending a lot of money on all that exercise equipment in an attempt to be healthy.
"Americans want to be healthy", said the Surgeon General.
As we should be.  Americans with health problems put more strain on the health care system, employers through expensive health care bills, and have more quality of life issues being unhealthy, than do healthier people.
Critics have questioned the First Lady's eating healthier, let's-get-our-kid- exercising-more-to prevent -childhood-.obesity initiatives, and we find it interesting. After all, no one ever criticized Jane Fonda, or Jack LaLanne, or Weight Watchers, or the author of South Beach diet for trying to teach people how to eat healthy. Yet, critics still ask, why is the First Lady trying to take away my cookie?
You can still have your cookie, people.   Just in moderation.
There have always been critics whenever a new idea, or a new way of doing things comes on the scene. It isn’t the First Lady who invented eating healthy, after all. It was this guy.   Looks like First Lady gets that. Maybe it’s time for the rest of America to get it, too.
Besides. If you can Just Say No to drugs (sanctioned by First Lady Nancy Reagan), you should also be able to ‘just say yes’ to eating healthy.
So, Let’s Move!, let’s eat healthy, and let's fix a healthier plate!

A Message by USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsak

Make MyPlate Your Plate
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsak
For Americans to lead happy, productive, lives it helps to stay healthy, active and fit. It’s really pretty simple. Choose a healthier plate, and balance it with exercise. In the end, it comes down to the choices we make.
That is why I was excited this week to be joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin to introduce USDA’s new food icon – MyPlate – a simple reminder to make healthy food choices.
We all know that what we eat matters, and MyPlate offers a visual reminder to make healthy food choices when you choose your next meal. MyPlate looks just like our plate at mealtime. It can help prioritize food choices and remind us to make fruits and vegetable half of our plates each meal. On the other side of the plate – and beside it – we see the other important food groups for a healthy meal: whole grains, lean proteins, and low fat dairy.
MyPlate will replace the Food Pyramid as the government’s primary food group symbol. Built off of the most-up-to-date science in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is an easy-to-understand visual to help folks who want to eat healthy.
And what we eat matters. President Obama has called on us to build a growing economy that is working for all Americans by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world. But our workers and leaders will never out-innovate or out-build competitors if they are unhealthy, dealing with heart disease and diabetes. And our children won’t get a first rate education if they can’t focus in class because they aren’t eating right, or are teased because of their weight.
Today, overweight and obesity rates are at dangerously high levels. And the Obama Administration has worked to support Americans who want to improve their health and nutrition.
If you’d like to take a look at MyPlate and learn more about a healthy diet, you can visit to get messages, tools, and how-to materials about healthy eating. This website has information on staying healthy, with tips on balancing calories, foods to increase, and foods to reduce.
I hope you are as excited as I am about MyPlate and the other resources to help Americans make healthy choices at
And the next time you sit down for a meal – before you eat – think about what’s on your plate. Because in the months and years ahead, we hope that MyPlate becomes your plate.

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