June 9, 2011
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab
SRU professor serves ‘MyPlate’ nutrition lessons
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Wendy Stuhldreher, professor of public health and social work and a registered dietitian, is already serving up the federal government’s new four-part dinner plate U.S. Dietary Guidelines to her students.
The new, colorful plate, known as “MyPlate,” was unveiled earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The dinner plate icon, divided into serving-size appropriate areas, is designed to help American’s better understand the importance of good nutrition and balanced diet – with appropriate serving portion.
“I think the new promotion is a good idea. What it does is replace the old food guide pyramid. It does not replace the more recent MyPyramid program,” she said.
The plate and additional information is available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/.
“I will introduce the new dinner plate icon to my graduate students in physical therapy now under way,” she said. Physical therapists need to understand the importance of good nutrition to help their client’s better balance their lifestyles regarding diet, she said.
The new MyPlate program offers dietary guidelines by color: Red for fruits, green for vegetables, orange for grains and purple for protein. There is a separate blue section for dairy on the side.
The new icon makes clear that fruits and vegetables should make up half of a meal, while protein, usually meat, should be the smallest part of the plate. The grain portion is a bit larger and encourages that at least half of grain intake come from whole grains.
At a news conference announcing the new icon, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the old food pyramid was "simply too complex to serve as a quick and easy guide for American families."
Stuhldreher agrees. “I am a strong supporter of MyPyramid, but it more complex. I think the new dinner plate will work very well in conjunction with MyPyramid,” she said.
She said the MyPyramid program was better, but requires access to a computer or online system because the pyramid is built specifically for the individual from information submitted by the user. Those visiting the site enter data and the computer program generates a food pyramid specifically tailored to the individual by age and gender, she said. “The MyPyramid is hard to teach because it has to be personalized, and students have to go online and then track their diet. I have made use of that system in some of my classes.”
“The MyPlate promotion shows how every portion of a meal should be built on vegetables and fruits, with milk on the side and not so much fat. It is going to be very hard for many Americans to switch to that portioning concept. The plate, unfortunately, does not look like a plate at many restaurants or at many homes, because the recommended portions are much smaller than people have come to think they should be. I think the plate will be beneficial in school lunch programs. We have to convince people that vegetables can be tasty – and good for you,” she said.
Stuhldreher, who is active in the college chapter of the Pennsylvania Public Health Association, said the group will be following the new MyPlate program and will provide more healthful snacks at its meetings. She said the group is also working to expand the term “flexitian,” which refers to people eating some vegetarian [meatless] meals during the week. “We have to eat more from plant sources. It is more economical and a health advantage for the family since vegetables are cheaper than meat.”
Michelle Obama, wife of President Barack Obama, who has endorsed healthy eating as part of her work as first lady, was on hand for the agriculture department’s announcement, said the My Plate idea was “a wonderful, kid-friendly tool.”
The My Plate program is designed to actively change American eating behaviors.
Stuhldreher said she would not be surprised to see AVI, the campus food service contractor, to begin using the My Plate icon in campus dining halls. Television and the U.S. food industry are also expected to endorse and promote the new program.
Deb Pincek, assistant to the vice president for student life who works closely with AVI, said she expected to have discussions during the summer about what MyPlate programming would be offered in campus dining halls during fall semester. “We have a registered dietitian who meets regularly with students, and I am sure they will want to offer the new information,” she said.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.