MyPlate: The Basics
By Bob Seebohar
After decades of confusion about how to teach individuals how to eat a well-balanced diet, the government finally took a leap of faith and decided to formulate a more simple approach. The food teaching model has been changed from the Food Guide Pyramid to the newly developed MyPlate.
It is very interesting that the government has finally moved to a more simplistic teaching model because many sport dietitians, including myself, have used this approach for years. In fact, my Periodization PlatesTM model (found in my Nutrition Periodization for Athletes and Metabolic Efficiency Training books) has been the most successful teaching tool that I have ever used with athletes. Why? Because it is simple and I often share with athletes one of my mantras: “simple is sustainable.”
Promoting calorie counting and weighing portions and serving sizes is not simple and does not work. Trust me — I tried early in my sport nutrition career to implement this approach with athletes but they could never seem to follow it. The reason was obvious. Give an athlete a complex eating plan where they are spending more time adding, subtracting and tracking numbers than they are training and they will ditch that plan very quickly.
Back to the new MyPlate model that was just released in early June, you can see from the photo, a plate is separated into different portions, each being a different nutrient category. Here are the main messages of the model that you can find on the My Plate website (www.choosemyplate.gov):1. Balancing Calories
a. Enjoy your food, but eat less.
b. Avoid oversized portions
2. Foods to Increase
a. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
b. Make at least half your grains whole grains
c. Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.
3. Foods to Reduce
a. Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals and choose foods with lower numbers.
b. Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
There are some good overall health messages but all of them may or may not be specific for you and your individual situation. While I am certainly excited that the Food Guide Pyramid has been discontinued, remember that not every athlete should follow the new MyPlate model to a tee. Remember that you must periodize your nutrition to support your training. There may be times throughout your training year where you may have less grains or dairy or vice versa. The important point is that you use this model as just that: a model to help you begin to navigate your daily nutrition.
If you would like to learn how to periodize this plate based on your training cycles, refer to either of my books or work with a sport dietitian. These resources can provide much more athlete-specific plate examples that support your different energy needs due to high and low training loads. Remember, finding a nutrition plan that works best for you as an individual should be on the top of your nutrition “to-do” list.
Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS is a Sport Dietitian, USAT Level III Elite Coach, USAT Youth and Junior Coach and an exercise physiologist. He was on the coaching team of Susan Williams, 2004 Olympic Triathlon bronze medalist, and was the head coach of Sarah Haskins, 2008 Olympic triathlete, and Jasmine Oeinck, 2009 Elite National Champion. Bob was previously a sport dietitian for the U.S. Olympic Committee and the 2008 Olympic triathlon team. Bob has worked with hundreds of age-group triathletes and professionals to help them lose weight and body fat while optimizing performance through nutrition periodization and metabolic efficiency. Bob recently published a Metabolic Efficiency Recipe book with over 100 recipes that provides athletes even more options to follow metabolic efficiency training. Visit www.fuel4mance.com for more information.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.