Us 90’s kids who’ve tried to block out the painful memories of dancing around to Richard Simmons VHS tapes in P.E. still remember one thing:
The Food Pyramid.
Of course, we don’t remember it because it was helpful. We just remember a poster plastered to our gym wall that looked like all of our favorite foods were floating away into outer space. But frankly, this method of teaching nutrition never stood a chance: eatings sweets and fats “sparingly” to a kid means shoving as many cookies into your mouth as possible before mom turns back around. It only counts if someone sees it, right?
Without having learned simple nutrition from the start, it’s really no wonder that us girls find ourselves constantly switching between two health mantras: not bothering with nutrition and fad dieting to quickly rid ourselves of everything we gained when we were, well, not bothering with nutrition.
So how do we find the in-between, that promised land of a healthy lifestyle? Because real girls can surely enjoy kale chips, but they can also really enjoy a deep-fried chimichanga with queso and a sweet tea.
The same government that shamefully brought us the ever-so-complicated Food Pyramid (and bless the soul who got fired over that failure) saved face and created, wait for it:
MyPlate. (So trendy, right?)
Published in 2011 with #girlboss First Lady Michelle Obama at the helm, MyPlate makes nutrition as easy as eating a plate of food.
No, seriously. It’s based on a plate of food.
To make a healthy, balanced plate, simply aim for the picture’s portions:
- Half your plates should be fruits and vegetables.
- Half your plate should be protein and grains.
- Drink a glass of water or a low-fat dairy product.
Of course, half a plate of watermelon, a quarter of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a quarter of buttered white bread probably won’t achieve the healthy lifestyle you want. But MyPlate totally gets the temptation with these tips for choosing your plate:
- Enjoy your food, but eat less (that means Chipotle, people! Just save half of it for tomorrow.)
- Mix it up with your fruits and vegetables– don’t bore your taste buds or your body! Reach for cucumber, kiwi, apples, anything!
- Aim for whole grains and try to make at least half of your grains whole.
- Pick a good protein: lean meats, fish, poultry without skin, and beans are best.
- Watch out for sodium in soup, bread, and frozen meals; go for the choice with the lowest sodium levels listed on the Nutrition Facts.
- Drink more water than sugary drinks.
And that’s the beauty of MyPlate— there are no “good foods” and “bad foods”. The focus of MyPlate is to ease you into thinking about healthier choices, which doesn’t mean cutting anything out, but focusing on variety, balance, and portion control.
But then there’s snacking.
I’m pretty sure the word comes from the latin root devil because all willpower is lost to the sinful taste of Cape Cod Kettle Chips. The only thing more depressing than running out of chips is realizing you just mindlessly ate 7 servings sizes of a 140-calorie-per-serving snack.
Thankfully, MyPlate comes in clutch once again by helping us measure snack-time serving sizes in a practical way. Because seriously, what the heck is an ounce?
- 1 Ounce of a dense solid (like cheese): size of your thumb
- 1-2 Ounces of a snack (like a chip): handful of snack
- 3 Ounces of a snack (like a chip): size of your palm
- 1 Cup of a snack (like a fruit): size of your fist
So what about that deep-fried chimichanga, queso, and sweet tea?
Maybe skip the refried beans and go for seasonal fruit or switch to water after your first glass of sweet tea; even box up half the burrito at the start of the meal before you’re tempted to binge it all. But enjoy it. Enjoy every single bite.
Because nutrition shouldn’t be– and doesn’t need to be—hard. And MyPlate finally gets it.
So thanks, Obama. (Michelle, that is.)
Featured Image via Meredith Kress