What's Really On Your Plate
When the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) released Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 many of us were happy that the unrealistic pyramid was replaced with something seemingly familiar with eating, a plate. The problem however is what's on Americans' plates does not follow their "guidelines." To bridge the gap, the NPD Group published a report based on their database of American dietary information called The National Eating Trends. Their report shows just how disparate our plates are to MyPlate.
The Real American Plate
Americans' plates meet at least 70% of the MyPlate recommendations on only 7 days of an entire year. In fact, the only recommendation Americans meet is for protein, at around 6 ounces a day. The amount of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and oil all fall short. For adults between the ages of 19 and 30, the Guidelines call for 2 cups of fruit a day, 1 ½ cups of fruit for those over 30. Vegetables are suggested at 2 ½ cups daily for adult women, with men needing 3 cups. At least 6 ounces of grains is suggested daily with a minimum of 3 ounces of whole grains, men's numbers are an ounce or two higher depending on adult age. 3 cups of dairy is recommended daily and 6-7 teaspoons of oil.
Taste is King
As for the reason Americans can't seem to shape up their plates, it comes down to motivation. According to NDP, taste is the #1 reason most people choose to eat what they eat. The battleground to improving what you eat is in finding healthier foods that please your palate. It's nice to hear that cauliflower has tons of Vitamin C or that Brussels sprouts' Vitamin K content is top-notch, but nutrition facts won't fool our tongues into a craving. On the contrary, if our taste buds reject a certain food there is little a calorie count can do to make us eat it anyway. That's where the culture of cooking comes in. We have to be introduced to healthier foods and have a positive experience. That means exploring recipes, sharing cooking tips, and broadening your horizons as to what you will try.
If You Serve It, They Will Eat
So how do you change your plate for the better? It's seems simple enough, but serve it. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that serving larger portions of fruit and vegetables increased consumption significantly in young children. Fruit intake increased by 70% and vegetables by 37%. In addition to just adding them into dishes, one way to increase fruit and vegetable intake at dinner time includes placing a plate of fresh fruit and vegetables in the middle of the table. You can make some kind of face with cucumber slice eyes, red bell pepper hair, carrot teeth or a celery nose to make eating more fun. Another way is to place a fruit and vegetable tray out while watching television or a movie. Of course to amp up the taste, go for a healthy dip like hummus, cheese chunks, or cinnamon and honey.
How do you get the recommended servings of fruits, veggies, dairy, oils, and grains?