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Eat More Fruits and Vegetables with MyPlate

Like most Americans, you’re probably interested in eating right, and consuming lots of fruits and vegetables is a big part of that. But if you’re like me, it’s hard to take abstract concepts and put them into action. That’s why I’m so glad that MyPlate has replaced the Food Pyramid as the government’s go-to guide to help us make better food choices.

Introduced by the USDA in 1992, the unwieldy Food Pyramid attempted to graphically show us what proportion of our diet each food group should represent. And, if we didn’t get it visually, it spelled out for us that we should eat 3-5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit daily. (In 2005, the USDA updated these amounts to 7-13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, depending on gender and activity level.)

I don’t know about you, but it wasn’t immediately apparent to me what a serving was. When I looked it up online, the recommendations weren’t exactly clear-cut, because they varied by the type of fruits and vegetables. For example, a medium apple represented one serving. So what did a big apple represent? One cup of raw leafy vegetables counted as a serving, but for other vegetables, you only needed ½ cup. I didn’t really see myself adding a measuring cup to my place setting every time I sat down to eat. The whole concept just didn’t click with me.

Now, behold the beauty of “MyPlate”:

Gone are the confusing levels. No more are the cryptic serving recommendations. All you need to know to eat right is this: Every time you sit down to a meal, half of your plate should be made up of fruits and vegetables.

I’m surprised by the impact this simple graphic has had on my eating practices. I’m a health writer after all; I know I should be eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. But there’s a big mental shift from “a lot,” which is conceptual and nebulous, to “half my plate,” which is concrete and exact.

Now, every time I look at my plate, I’m reminded of the MyPlate graphic, and I’m forced to ask myself: Is half of what’s on my plate fruits and vegetables? If not, I literally get up from the table, go to the kitchen, and scoop some more kale or broccoli or salad onto my plate until it visually represents half.

Has MyPlate influenced you to eat more fruits and vegetables?  

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