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USDA updates dietary guidelines

Washington—Consumers should forgo sugary drinks and make water their beverage of choice, according to the new dietary guidelines released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Image: MyPlate

The guidelines and a new icon for healthy eating—a colorful plate that gives consumers an easy visual example of how to dish up proper portions for breakfast, lunch and dinner—were unveiled June 2 by First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Consumers and health care professionals can visit to view the MyPlate icon and dietary guidelines. There are also links to tools such as getting a personalized eating plan, healthy eating tips, weight loss information, menu planning, diet analysis and more. MyPlate print materials, including a consumer brochure, sample menus, recipes, a “getting started” guide and many more resources are also available.

The new MyPlate icon emphasizes ideal portions sizes for fruit, vegetable, grains, protein and dairy food groups. Nutrition, health and consumer advocates are applauding the MyPlate icon as a tool to help improve the health and well-being of Americans nationwide.

“MyPlate is a visual model that communicates to consumers the proportions of foods that, if consumed, provide adequate nutrient intakes for ideal growth and health,” said Teresa Marshall, Ph.D., R.D., L.D, a consultant to the ADA Council on Access Prevention and Interprofessional Relations.

“Obviously, attention to selection of foods within groups is necessary to achieve individualized energy and fat intakes for prevention of obesity and systemic disease,” Dr. Marshall said. “For example, one of the messages accompanying MyPlate recommends drinking water instead of sugary drinks. The MyPlate visual emphasizes the importance of fruits and vegetables in our diets—a message we need to hear!”

The new website and consumer brochure encourage consumers to:

  • build a healthy plate—fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables, switch to skim or 1 percent milk, make at least half of grains eaten whole grain choices and vary protein choices like seafood or beans.
  • cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars and salts—choose water instead of sugary drinks, eat fruit for dessert or choose 100 percent fruit juice over fruit-flavored drinks; steer away from added sodium in foods and add spices or herbs to season food; eat fewer foods like cakes, cookies, ice cream, pizza, cheese, sausage and hot dogs; choose lean meats and poultry and fat-free or low-fat dairy products; and prepare foods in oils instead of solid fats.
  • eat the right amount of calories—consumers can get their personal daily calorie limit at and should avoid oversized portions or eating when already full; cook at home more often to take control of what they are eating; choose lower calorie menu options when eating out; track what they eat; and drink alcoholic beverages in moderation (one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men).
  • be physically active—everyone should add physical activities they enjoy at least 10 minutes at a time whenever possible for health benefits.

For more information on diet and oral health, visit and go to public resources/oral health topics.