With the help of First Lady Michelle Obama, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has unveiled a new food group icon to help consumers make healthier food choices.
The new design, called MyPlate, replaces the nearly twenty-year-old food pyramid as the USDA's food group symbol of choice, and is intended to help Americans more easily visualize what they need to eat better.
According to the USDA, more than one-third of children and two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. To help Americans fight the battle of the bulge, USDA's MyPlate campaign and its 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans place stronger emphasis on healthy food choices, reducing calorie consumption, and increasing physical activity. MyPlate focuses on the fruit, vegetable, grains, protein, and dairy food groups, and encourages consumers to "make half their plate fruits and vegetables."
Filling half a plate with greens and berries may seem a daunting task for some, but the USDA is offering a number of helpful tips to help consumers get enough of their fruits and veggies. An American National Standard (ANS) under development by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) member and accredited standards developer NSF International also helps to serve up a healthy portion of fruits and veggies. BSR/NSF 3-A 14159-5, Hygiene Requirements for the Design of Equipment used in Fruit and Vegetable Processing, establishes minimum hygiene requirements for equipment such as dryers, conveyors, and washing machinery used in produce processing.
The USDA recommends shopping for in-season fruits and vegetables, when they are less expensive and at their peak flavor. Whether traveling from the farm to the grocery store or the farmers' market to the home, proper storage and handling is key to maintaining freshness. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed a number of standards to guide the proper harvesting and storage of myriad fruits and veggies, including:
All of these standards were developed by ISO Technical Committee (TC) 34, Food products, and its Subcommittee (SC) 14, Fresh, dry and dried fruits and vegetables. The American Oil Chemists' Society (AOCS), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, serves as the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator to ISO TC 34.
The MyPlate campaign's companion website, www.ChooseMyPlate.gov, provides more detailed guidance on the USDA's nutritional advice, along with tips, recipes, and sample diets. The site will also eventually feature interactive tools that help people manage their weight and track their exercise.
"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 of the MyPlate icon. "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 it's tough to be a nutritionist, too. 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."