The USDA recently launched the new icon—a plate(!)—to accompany the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Called MyPlate, it’s a stark divergence from the well-known food pyramid, which has symbolized what Americans should eat for the past 20 years. The plate is an easy-to-use template and offers at-a-glance guidance for constructing a healthful meal: 1) make half your plate fruits and vegetables; 2) reserve a little over a quarter of your plate for grains and make them whole at least half the time; 3) give protein a bit less than a quarter of your plate; and 4) include low-fat dairy or calcium-fortified soymilk. The image, however, doesn’t give the whole nutritional picture—it doesn’t say anything about portion sizes. Here we offer tips and tricks for what a healthy portion of each food group looks like. Visit choosemyplate.gov to find out how many servings of each food group you should be eating every day. The suggestions below are based on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet. —Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
GRAINS: An “ounce equivalent” portion of grains is 1⁄2 cup rice, oatmeal or cooked pasta. A piece of small presliced bread, a 1-inch slice of a baguette or a hockey-puck-size bagel counts as a portion. Aim for: 6 portions.
DAIRY: A portion of dairy equals 1 cup (8 ounces) of milk, yogurt or calcium-fortified soymilk; 1⁄2 cup ricotta cheese or 1⁄3 cup shredded cheese. Three dominos or a tube of lipstick are about equal to the size of a 1.5-ounce portion of hard cheese. Aim for: 3 portions.
PROTEIN: A 4-ounce serving of fish is about the size of a checkbook. A healthy 3-ounce serving of meat or poultry is equivalent to a deck of cards or a bar of soap. Other sources of protein include beans (1⁄4 cup is 1 ounce), eggs (one egg is 1 ounce), nuts (49 pistachios, 23 almonds, 14 walnut halves or 2 tablespoons of nut butter all count as 2 ounces of protein). Aim for: 51⁄2 ounces.
FRUITS: A portion of fresh fruit is 1 cup, which is roughly the size of a tennis ball or a 60-watt light bulb)—that’s a kiwi; an orange; half a grapefruit; 1 cup (8 ounces) of juice. One portion of fruit also equals 1⁄2 cup of dried fruit. Aim for: 2 portions.
VEGETABLES: A portion of vegetables, cooked or raw (broccoli florets, carrots, green beans, etc.) is 1 cup; a portion of salad greens or raw spinach, though, is 2 cups; a potato should be about the size of a computer mouse. Aim for: 21⁄2 portions.