New USDA plate icon may help Coloradans

RBC I Most Colorado plates don’t look like the new MyPlate icon released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s because three of four Colorado adults and nine of 10 Colorado children do not eat enough fruits and vegetables daily.
“The new MyPlate icon gives Coloradans a clear picture of how to fill their plates with healthy food,” said Shana Patterson, registered dietitian and nutrition coordinator for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
On Thursday, first lady Michelle Obama and USDA officials launched a new MyPlate food icon to replace the decades-old food pyramid. The new plate is half full of fruits and vegetables, leaving a quarter-plate each for proteins and whole grains. A circular dairy icon adjacent to the plate represents healthy dairy choices.
A balanced plate of food gives Coloradans the energy they need to sustain a healthy, active lifestyle. Eating the appropriate amount of fruits and vegetables has been shown to prevent obesity and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Replacing soda with low-fat milk, unsweetened tea or water also can reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity.
While Colorado is one of the leanest states in the nation, it has not escaped the obesity epidemic sweeping the country. The state’s obesity rate grew 89 percent from 1995 through 2008, faster than the national obesity rate grew during that same time. About one in five Colorado adults and one in seven Colorado children are obese.
MyPlate is a simple, recognizable visual cue to help people make healthy food choices in accordance with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To give people the resources to follow these visual cues, the USDA developed the website and will partner with the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign to promote and sustain the initiative.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has implemented a number of initiatives to promote healthy eating.
• Culinary boot camps: The department works with community partners to teach food service directors and lead cooks how to purchase, prepare and serve healthier whole foods to students.
• Farm to school: The department funds and facilitates a task force developing recommendations to expand school purchases of locally grown food.
• Healthy beverage standards: The department supported regulations that prohibit soda and require only milk, 100 percent fruit juice and water be sold in schools.
• Physical activity in schools: The department is working with schools to implement the recently enacted requirement that elementary students receive a minimum 30 minutes per day of physical activity.
• Smart meal seal: The department developed a restaurant initiative in which more than 200 restaurants display a point of purchase symbol identifying meals that meet nutritional guidelines.