District teaches eating by the plate

New federal food guide focuses on proper portions with a graphic that's more relatable, officials say.

August 09, 2011|By Britney Barnes,

COSTA MESA — The old food pyramid is gone, but its replacement brings a new opportunity to educate the community on how to eat healthfully, Newport-Mesa Nutrition Services officials said.

"One of the greatest challenges I think we face is educating our parent and student population — all the members of our community really — about healthy eating and increasing physical activity," said nutrition services Director Richard Greene. "Our goal is to educate everyone and help them make better choices."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, updated dietary guidelines with MyPlate, an icon of a table setting with the plate divided into proper portions and dairy on the side.


The plate is split in half with fruit and vegetables on one side. On the other side, grains make up about 60%, protein about 40 %.

The new guidelines urge eating less by avoiding oversized portions, adding in more whole grains and switching to fat-free or low-fat milk. People are also told to eat foods lower in sodium and choose water instead of sugary drinks.

The science behind the icon hasn't changed, but the USDA updates its recommendations about every five years, said Geoff Ianniello, Newport-Mesa's nutrition services operations manager for Network for a HealthyCalifornia.

The new guide gives nutrition services officials fresh material that creates new opportunities to draw attention to what to eat, Greene said.

It's also more relatable for kids, said district spokeswoman Laura Boss.

"I think it's a better depiction, a better graphic to use to demonstrate what type of food choices people should make," Greene said.

Newport-Mesa will unveil the new food guide this fall at Parent Teacher Assn. meetings and at parent Nutrition Institute classes.

The district will also change the subject of the annual elementary school Nutrition Art Contest to MyPlate. The contest will challenge students to draw food onto the a plate divided into proper portions, Ianniello said, adding that teachers will also give a lesson on what are healthy fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy.

"So this becomes part of a nutrition education lesson the teachers will do in the classroom," he said. "It's not just drawing."

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Go online to for more information on MyPlate, daily healthy eating tips, information on planning healthy meals and more.

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