How can the USDA MyPlate nutrition recommendations help me lose weight?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
MyPlate can help you lose weight if you make most of your plates resemble the MyPlate icon. When you eat more non starchy vegetables, lean protein, and limited amounts of fruits and whole grains, you will be reducing calories. The foods not on the plate like sweets, fatty meats, unhealthy oils, and dairy products are higher in calories. So eating less of those, will help decrease overall calories. MyPlate helps you keep in mind foods that are calorie light and nutrient dense.
Dr. Nancy Munoz
Nutrition & Dietetics
The big secret to weight loss is to consume fewer calories than the calories our body uses on a daily basis. The USDA “Choose my plate” site has great information that can help you guide your steps towards maintaining, losing, or gaining weight. Information on what foods to eat (a personal daily plan), how much to eat (patterns to help you consume the correct number of calories), physical activity (tips to "get moving") and the tools to track of both intake and physical activity can help you achieve a healthier weight.

To obtain more information
go to
The new icon seems to convey an important principle for weight loss -- How you eat is just as important as what you eat. The icon presents one powerful message -- be more mindful of what is on your plate. Overeating is often about portion sizes, which is something that we can spot, if we are looking. This visual reminder emphasizes balance and takes us back to the basics, the food groups. Numbers and ranges are notably absent. Consider for a moment the previous food pyramid which did contain specific information. It wasn't particularly difficult math or complicated numbers. Yet, emotionally, for many reasons, we didn't seem to completely take it in. Can you remember off the top of your head the number of servings for each food group? The confusion we experienced was likely less about complicated numbers and more about our emotional reaction to it. The new image seems to help people approach managing their weight, rather than avoid it. This is an important first step in getting to a healthy weight.
Enas Shakkour
Nutrition & Dietetics
The USDA MyPlate emphasizes balancing your calories. Losing weight occurs when your body uses more calories than you eat. Eating less is key to not overconsuming calories. The MyPlate does not restrict a certain food group, but stresses balance and portion control.

MyPlate recommends that half the plate should be fruits and vegetables which provides you with plenty of nutrients with very low calories. It also recommends that at least 50% of your grains be whole. Whole grains provide you with fiber and more nutrients than white refined grains. Whole grains also help you to feel full longer, and you will not eat as much.

MyPlate also recommends low-fat or skim milk. Animal fat provides extra calories and nonessential fatty acids. Cutting back on your saturated fats will lower your caloric intake. The USDA MyPlate recommends you cut back on sodium and drink water instead of sugary drinks. Sugary drinks also provide "empty" calories. "Empty" calories are calories that provide no nutrients. Cutting back on empty calories found in sweets and sugary drinks will lower your overall caloric intake and will help you lose weight.
As you can see from the figure, MyPlate is a dinner plate split into multiple sections, each representing each of the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. While oils are an important part of a healthy diet, they are not depicted on the plate as they are not considered a food group.

At a blink of an eye, you will now see proportionality in regards to how these food groups should dominate your diet. Half of your plate should be devoted to waist- and heart-friendly vegetables and fruit with a smaller portion for grains, preferably whole grains and lean protein foods such as fish, skinless poultry, lean meats, dried beans and peas. The circle shape next to the plate is a visual reminder to make sure that fat-free and low-fat dairy foods such as milk should not be forgotten at mealtimes. 

With the majority of Americans overweight, this visual shift of foods on your plate can make a dramatic effect on your calorie intake. Devoting more than half of the surface of the plate to low calorie fruits and vegetables will crowd out or displace higher calorie grains and protein food choices.

In addition to MyPlate, there are also several important nutrition messages at based on the current Dietary Guidelines, which emphasize moderation in your diet and eating behaviors, which can also help with weight loss. 
MyPlate, USDA's food pyramid

Continue Learning about USDA MyPlate

How can MyPlate help my heart disease?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has replaced the familiar Food Pyramid with a graphic call...
More Answers
Do I need to follow the USDA MyPlate exactly to eat healthy?
Judy CaplanJudy Caplan
MyPlate are guidelines to a healthy diet. These are suggestions to make you more aware so that over ...
More Answers
How can I find out more information about the USDA MyPlate recommendations?
Bethany ThayerBethany Thayer
The USDA has created a website with all the information you need. Visit
More Answers
Should pregnant women follow the USDA MyPlate recommendations?
Joan Salge Blake, MS, RDJoan Salge Blake, MS, RD
Pregnant women have some increased nutrient needs during this exciting time, but the good news is th...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.