Posts Tagged: MyPlate
Farmers grow lettuce, spinach, broccoli and other vegetables in California's Imperial Valley, Central Valley, Salinas Valley and far northern counties. However, these nutritious foods are not readily available to local low income communities.
“Children often don't have access to healthy food options,” said Christopher Gomez Wong, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educator in Imperial County. “I'm from the Imperial Valley and often the fruits and vegetables grown here are not sold in local markets.”
According to the non-profit organization Feeding America, almost 2.5 million young people in the United States do not have access to nutritious food.
“In California, one of every six children lives in a home where it's difficult to get the amount of nutritious food needed for their families,” said Lorrene Ritchie, director of the UC Nutrition Policy Institute. “We call this ‘food insecurity.'”
A study by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) found that food insecurity increases school absences and behavioral problems, and reduces children's concentration and academic achievement.
Ritchie, who leads a group of experts fighting obesity and food insecurity, said when family income is not sufficient, there is a tendency to buy cheaper foods, generally, junk food.
“If I'm hungry and I don't have much money, I'm going to a fast food restaurant where I can get more calories at a lower price,” Ritchie said. “Fast foods have more calories and cost less, but they typically also contain more sugar, salt and fat.”
For example, research presented at the UC ANR Statewide Conference on food insecurity included a graphic showing that for one dollar, consumers can purchase a bag of potato chips with 1,200 calories or a soda with 875 calories. In contrast, one dollar can buy just 250 calories of fresh vegetables or 170 calories of fresh fruit.
In everyday life, there are many examples of nutritious foods being displaced by junk foods
“We are studying children's eating habits,” Gomez Wong said. “Children aren't eating in the cafeteria and are eating lots of sweets. Five dollars more often buys them chips and a soda than a salad.”
UC ANR works to combat food insecurity in many ways. It implements various ongoing community programs, conducts research and promotes government nutrition programs.
Urban gardens and orchards have a positive impact in low income communities, particularly where families do not have space for their own gardens and are interested in growing their own food. One example is the Community Settlement Association in Riverside. Other cities with similar programs are Sacramento, San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.
UC Master Food Preserver Program teaches the public how to preserve food by canning, freezing and drying in order to take advantage lower prices for fruit and vegetables purchased in season.
Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) offers free nutrition workshops in most California counties where people can learn how to purchase nutritious foods for less money and how to prepare them.
In addition, there are successful government programs, such as the National School Lunch Program, that provides nutritious foods free or at a reduced cost for children in public schools. The food is aligned with the national food guidelines that promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat milk.
“Every study we have done shows that school food contributes in an important way to children's nutrition,” Ritchie said. “For example, many children can meet half of their daily nutrition needs from school foods available absolutely free. I encourage all families to review school food programs to assure that their children arrive at school in time for the school breakfast and take advantage of the school lunch.”
“What we are trying to figure out is how to create an environment in which healthy options are the easiest options,” Ritchie said.
She said it would be ideal if supermarkets were designed under in concert with the healthy eating guidelines set forth in MyPlate. That is to say, to have stores where half the space is devoted to fruit and vegetables, a third is grains and whole grains, and another third are proteins, dairy foods and water (although water is not currently on MyPlate.)
Ritchie has joined with dozens of nutrition and health professionals around the country to ask that the USDA put water onto MyPlate.
“We don't have all the answers to overcoming obesity, but the research on sugar-sweetened beverages is very clear,” Ritchie said. “When you drink beverages like soda, sports drinks or punch, the sugar gets absorbed very rapidly and the body doesn't recognize the calories. The result is excess calories and weight gain.”
The USDA introduced MyPlate in 2011 to reflect the message of its Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Federal law requires that the guidelines be reviewed, updated and published every five years.
“USDA officials say that, in order to change MyPlate, there must be more information in the dietary guidelines about water,” Ritchie said. “We are working through the public comment process to ask the advisory board to promote water as the beverage of choice.”
The ultimate goal – a new water icon on MyPlate – is important because of its high visibility. MyPlate is found on elementary school classroom walls and cereal boxes; at community gardens and the grocery store produce aisle.
“They see MyPlate as the face of the dietary guidelines and are very supportive of using the image as a teaching tool,” Hecht said. “They also supported the idea of adding a symbol for water.”
She shared the California educators' thoughts on MyPlate with her USDA contacts. “When they get a story from the field, it really matters to them,” Hecht said.
Ritchie and her colleagues around the country submitted a “Best of Science” letter to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee imploring them to strengthen the language for drinking water.
“Current research indicates that children, in particular, are subject to ‘voluntary dehydration' from low intake of plain water,” the letter says. “Between 2005 and 2010, more than a quarter of children aged 4 to 13 years old in the U.S. did not have a drink of plain water on two consecutive days.”
Instead, they are drinking sugary beverages. National surveys in the early 2000s found that, on any given day, 84 percent of 2- to 5-year-old children drank sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, sports drinks and fruit punch. The calories amounted to 11 percent of the children's total energy intake.
- Sugar-sweetened beverages – including sodas, juice drinks, pre-sweetened tea and coffee drinks, and fortified or energy drinks – are among the top sources of calories for children and adolescents.
- Between the late 1960s and early 2000s the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages doubled.
- While the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men, the average U.S. consumption is 17 teaspoons per day.
- Low-income populations have higher intakes of sugar-sweetened beveragesand Latino children drink more of them than white children.
- Cardiovascular disease, present in more than one-third of American adults, is now understood to be exacerbated by the inflammatory effects of excess sugar consumption.
- Excess sugar consumption is a risk factor for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a precursor to diabetes.
The beauty of MyPlate is that the graphic is simple, but the website is incredibly rich in information for the public and professionals alike. My favorite feature on the website is the SuperTracker, where you can get a personalized nutrition and physical activity plan. SuperTracker can become your virtual nutrition coach, urging you to meet your health goals through weekly emails.
There is also a great series of handouts called Ten Tips Nutrition Education Series. These free downloadable handouts are created in English and Spanish to help consumers get started toward a healthy diet. There are 20 different topics available now, and even more to come later.
In June, my colleague and I had the pleasure of presenting MyPlate resources and activities to home economics teachers attending a conference in Garden Grove, Calif. We encouraged the teachers to connect with their local UC Cooperative Extension office where the nutrition education professionals have developed creative MyPlate activities to supplement existing nutrition education curricula.
Here's to a successful first year with MyPlate and a job-well-done to the educators and nutrition professionals who have worked so hard to extend these valuable resources to our schools and communities!
Oh January 1st, how I hate you. If you’re like me you’re still recovering from the month long holiday food hangover. With three months until spring and swimsuit season on the horizon, you’re feeling the pressure to lose the winter coat! As always, you make that infamous New Year’s resolution: TO LOSE WEIGHT!
“Gym membership here I come!”
“I will not touch another carb for the rest of the year!”
“No sweets ever again… after this one!”
“I’m on a new diet, I eat nothing and when I feel like I’m going to faint I eat a cube of cheese!”
Okay the last one is my favorite quote from the Devil Wear’s Prada, but working in the health field I have found that sometimes people actually think that’s a solution. We find ourselves making resolutions that eliminate entire food groups from our diets, because we think it will help us lose weight. The thing most people don’t know or realize is that sometimes the absolutes we make can be very harmful to our health, and in the long run can actually cause us to gain the weight back plus more.
So this year, let’s make an attainable, realistic goal. Here are three tips selected from www.choosemyplate.gov, to have a healthy year!
- Put a positive spin on it – instead of saying “I can’t eat any sweets at all!” try a few “I will” statements on for size:
- I will add 1 serving of fruits and vegetables to each meal.
- I will make half of my grains whole.
- I will choose water or low-fat milk more often.
- Build a healthy snack – instead of buying the expensive processed snacks, try these healthy tips:
Combine fruit and a dairy food for the morning munchies:
- Apple and cheese
- Banana and yogurt
Combine vegetables and a protein food for a p.m. pick-me-up:
- Celery and peanut butter
- Carrots and almonds
Combining these foods will help you stay fuller longer while increasing your nutrient consumption.
- Don’t discount physical activity – being healthy isn’t about just what you eat. Adults need 30 minutes of physical activity a day and children need 60 minutes. Just because you don’t have a gym membership doesn’t mean you can’t be physically active. Remember that 30 minutes can be broken up throughout the day.
Here are some tips to increase your physical activity incrementally, without breaking the bank:
- Start a walking club with your co-workers, neighbors or friends. You’re more likely to do it if someone keeps you accountable.
- Do what you like! If you hate to run, don’t do it. There’s no use in driving yourself crazy doing something you hate. If you like to dance, then turn the radio up and have fun!
- Do stretches, exercises, or pedal a stationary bike while watching television.
Remember to always consult your physician before beginning a rigorous exercise regimen.
May your new year be full of realistic, attainable, resolutions! Keep it positive. Select healthy snacks that help you stay full longer. Get moving so you have more energy during the day. For more information and health tips visit www.choosemyplate.gov.
Wishing you all a very healthy 2012!
"As a mom, I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country," said First Lady Michelle Obama in a live-streamed news conference this morning. "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."
Obama acknowledged that MyPlate won't end the epidemic of childhood obesity on its own.
"This can't ensure that the community has access to affordable fruits and vegetables. There's still work to do," she said. "It can't spur kids to get up and move. There's still work to do. But we can build momentum with MyPlate. Today is an enormous step in the right direction."
At the press conference, Dr. Regina Benjamin, the US Surgeon General, said Americans needed a simple and easy tool to help them make healthy choices. She praised USDA's "tremendous effort to create a powerful, simple, understandable message."
'MyPlate' is a bold, colorful icon resembling a sectioned dinner plate. Separate fruits and vegetables sections combine to fill half the plate. The other half of the plate shows grains and protein. A circle representing dairy is off to the side.
In a video introducing MyPlate, USDA secretary Tom Vilsack encourages Americans to choose healthier food and balance it with exercise.
"Next time you sit down for a meal, before you eat, think about what's on your plate. In the months and years ahead, we hope MyPlate becomes your plate," Vilsack said.