What are the food sections of the USDA MyPlate?

Deborah Beauvais
Nutrition & Dietetics
The new MyPlate is a useful tool for consumers to follow dietary guidelines and eat healthfully.

The new MyPlate icon is a plate split into four sections, each representing a different type of food (protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables). The sections vary in size depending on the recommended portion of each food a person should eat. A circle shape next to the plate represents dairy products, especially milk. Viewing the icon online allows consumers to click on each section of the plate for more information.

MyPlate works with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines to focus on the following selected messages:
  • Balancing Calories: Enjoy your food, but eat less. Avoid oversized portions.
  • Foods to Increase: Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Make at least half your grains whole grains and switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
  • Foods to Reduce: Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals -- and choose the foods with lower numbers. Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

There are four food sections on the actual plate image and a section for dairy off to the side of the plate. The four sections include making half your plate filled with produce with more vegetables than fruit; one quarter of your plate with grains (choosing half of your grains as whole grains); and the final quarter of your plate with protein foods (Seafood, beans, nuts, lean meats, poultry and eggs). Dairy choices should be skim or 1% milk or yogurt.

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. 
MyPlate, USDA's food pyramid

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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.