Big news about the new “Choose My Plate” icon has made headlines in the last 48 hours

First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled the federal government’s new food icon, MyPlate. It will be used as a reminder to consumers to make healthier food choices.

The timing couldn’t be better as Americans are facing epidemic rates of overweight and obesity. The new, easy-to-understand MyPlate icon emphasizes the healthy food groups like fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy food groups.

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 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.”

With so many food options available to consumers, it is often difficult to determine the best foods to put on our plates when building a healthy meal,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Choose My Plate is an uncomplicated symbol to help remind people to think about their food choices in order to lead healthier lifestyles. This effort is about more than just giving information, it is a matter of making people understand there are options and practical ways to apply them to their daily lives.”

Choose My Plate dot gov provides practical information to individuals, health professionals, educators, and the food industry to help the general public develop healthier diets. Later this year, USDA will unveil its exciting “go-to” online tool, allowing consumers to personalize and manage their dietary and physical activity choices. Those who click on the website will have a dietary assessment, nutrition education, and other user-friendly nutrition resources at hand.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will form the basis of the federal government’s nutrition education programs, federal nutrition assistance programs, and dietary advice provided by health and nutrition professionals. The Guidelines messages include:

Balance Calories

• Enjoy your food but eat less.

• Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase

• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

• Make at least half your grains whole grains

Foods to Reduce

• Compare sodium (salt) in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and choose foods with lower numbers.

• Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Consumers will be able to access “how-tos” for changing dietary and health habits. In fact, the long-term “make half your plate fruits and vegetables” campaign will soon begin in conjunction with this new icon.

What we have learned over the years is that consumers are bombarded by so many nutrition messages that it makes it difficult to focus on changes that are necessary to improve their diet,” said Secretary Vilsack. “This new campaign calendar will help unify the public and private sectors to coordinate efforts and highlight one desired change for consumers at a time.”

Just to make the change fun for consumers, the USDA wants to encourage consumers to take a photo of their plates and share it on Twitter with the hash-tag #MyPlate. Please help with the Choose my Plate Awareness program.

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