Last week, the USDA announced it is replacing the Food Pyramid with the Food Plate. The Pyramid had been the primary source of general nutritional guidelines for nearly 20 years. It had evolved over the years to reflect dietary requirements necessary for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, many experts criticize it as confusing and misleading.
The Food Plate is designed to simplify nutritional information. In a quick glance, you can estimate proper serving sizes for grains, vegetables, fruit, protein and dairy for meals. "It's a constant reminder as you look at your own plate, [to see] whether your portion sizes are right, whether you've got enough fruits and vegetables on that plate," says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Substantively, the Food Plate resembles the Food Pyramid, with less emphasis on grains. Although grains are a major source of carbs, our energy fuel, the Food Plate recommends combining carb intake with sufficient portions of fruits and vegetables.
All people, including elite athletes, can use this powerful tool to quickly assess their diet. However, because athletes often need more energy and nutrients to maintain or improve performance, their needs may not be met by the Food Plate's guidelines [learn more about calculating your energy needs here]. For example, endurance athletes may need to increase their grain intake to carb-load before a long race, or football players may up their protein intake to build lean muscle mass.
Learn more about the Food Plate at choosemyplate.gov
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock