Filling your plate the healthy way

The Food Pyramid is out. Enter the new USDA food icon MyPlate ( The simplified graphic may provide people with a clearer way to plan their meals, and Oklahomans would do well to heed the advice. According to a report by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Oklahoma had the highest rise in obesity rate between 1995 and 2010 with an 18.5 percent increase.

Anna Reinwand, a dietician at OSU Medical Center, explained the new model for healthy eating.

“The plate is supposed to be easier,” she said. “The Food Pyramid looks at food consumption based on the whole day, while MyPlate takes it one meal at a time.”

MyPlate emphasizes more fruits and vegetables. “They tend to be healthier and more nutrient dense [than processed foods],” Reinwand said.

Reinwand pointed out that many diseases result from obesity, such as heart disease.

“Overweight kids tend to be overweight adults. We’re seeing lots of kids with Type 2 diabetes because of not eating a healthy diet and not getting enough exercise.”

Another contributing factor to obesity in both children and adults is portion size. Adult and children’s portion sizes are different. In general, people tend to eat more than they need. Reinwand suggests using smaller plates to serve meals and that half the plate should be fruits and vegetables. An adult might use a 9-inch plate, and a child might use a 7-inch plate to help control serving sizes.

Another easy way to measure serving sizes is to use hands.

“A kids’ portion of potatoes or veggies might be their fist,” Reinwand said. “Milk can be served in a 4-ounce cup rather than an 8-ounce cup. Remember that children are little all over, including their tummies.”

Reinwand also advised parents to use more fruits and vegetables as snacks. Healthy snack options include hummus with carrots or other vegetables to dip, or apples and cheese, and grapes and cheese.

“Little kids need to eat more often,” Reinwand said. “They need to have snacks that are nutrient dense so that it’s part of the overall diet for the day.”

And Reinwand says to give children opportunities to try new foods.

“They may need to try something 20 times before they may like it,” she said. “But make it low-key and fun. Also, research shows that if dads eat something, kids will follow what dads do.”

Other ways to get kids to eat healthy foods is to get them involved by letting them pick out foods at the grocery store and then help with the cooking.

“Let them be involved in the whole process,” Reinwand said, “so that they feel like they’re helping the family. As a working mom, you can get together and get this meal done faster if you do it together. Some of the best memories I have are of cooking with my dad.”

Ultimately, Reinwand said that cooking and eating shouldn’t be stressful activities. “Tomorrow’s another day,” she said. “My son was on a waffles and peanut butter kick for a while. If your kid just wants chicken nuggets, find a healthy recipe. Just because your children don’t eat perfectly every day, it’s all part of balance. If your child isn’t eating dark, leafy greens at the moment, do melons and strawberries.”

Reinwand also reminds parents that expecting a clean plate is not the way to go. Neither is insisting on children finishing their spinach before they get dessert.

“I’m not a big believer in sweets,” she said, “but I don’t want to restrict anything. Aim for a balanced diet, and do physical activity as a family. Throw a Frisbee, kick a ball, dance. The saddest thing is seeing people in restaurants all at their own screens. Think about the kind of adult you want your child to be – what you eat affects everything else, learning, sleep, the whole package — and how we come together for a meal affects how the whole family interacts.

Categories: Food