Here are six tips to help you use MyPlate to lose weight:
1. Mind Your Calories
Choosing more nutrient-dense foods highlighted in MyPlate—vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy products—having smaller portions of lean protein foods, and cutting back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and sodium such as sweets, sweetened drinks, pizza, and fatty meats can help you curb your caloric intake.
Based on a 1,600 calories per day plan*, MyPlate recommends:
- Vegetables: 2 cups
- Fruits: 1.5 cups
- Grains: 5 ounces
- Protein: 5 ounces
- Dairy: 3 cups
2. Divide and Conquer
Even though MyPlate includes five food groups, you don’t need to fill your plate with all five each time you eat. If you usually have three meals and two snacks a day, choose items from at least three or four food groups for each main meal, and items from one or two food groups for each snack. Find what works for you and choose meals and snacks that satisfy (but don’t stuff) you.
3. Fill Up on Produce
MyPlate recommends half your plate to include vegetables and fruit; these fill you up because of their high water and fiber content. And while eating more of them won’t automatically help you lose weight, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests it may help protect against weight gain. Aim for at least ½ to one cup of produce every time you eat. Here are some suggestions:
- Have fresh berries over low-fat plain yogurt
- Mash banana in whole-grain pancake and waffle mix
- Sprinkle dried fruit, or pear, apple, orange or grapefruit sections in salad
- Use a variety of fruits to make a smoothie
- Add grilled vegetable slices to sandwiches
The General Mills Whole Grain Check-Up revealed over 60% of Americans believe they get enough, but only 5% get the recommended three servings (at least 48 grams) of whole grains a day. Aim for one whole grain each time at each meal. Examples include one slice whole wheat toast, ½ cup cooked oatmeal, one cup flaky/puffy whole grain cereal, ½ cup cooked brown/wild rice or whole wheat pasta, and three cups air-popped popcorn.
5. Partner with Protein
The CDC reveals “most Americans eat more protein than we need.” Of the five ounces of protein recommended a day, here are some general serving sizes: one egg, one ounce of meat, poultry, or fish, ¼ cup legumes (beans and peas), or ½ ounce nuts or seeds. The USDA guidelines also suggest 8 ounces of fish each week. Choose foods high in protein in their leanest, lowest fat forms and in small portions to maximize nutrient intake.
Additionally, MyPlate recommends three cups of dairy—also rich in protein (milk and yogurt especially)— each day. One cup of dairy equals one cup milk/yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of hard cheese or two ounces (about three slices) of processed cheese.
6. Read the Fine Print
Although sweets and alcoholic beverages didn’t make it onto MyPlate, these indulgences can fit in—even if you’re trying to lose weight. Two Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies, 34 plain M & Ms, five ounces of red wine, and 14 ounces of light beer each provide about 120 calories, the amount allotted for solid fats and added sugars in a 1,600 calories per day plan*:
*For more information about MyPlate and the USDA's dietary guidelines, click here. According to the American Dietetic Association, a safe rate of weight loss is one to two pounds a week.