The New American Plate Revealed

This morning, at 9:45 AM Central Standard Time, USDA revealed the new food icon with First Lady Michelle Obama- a PLATE instead of a food pyramid.  I think this is a huge step in the right direction because we all eat on plates, right? The 2010 dietary guidelines promoted filling half of the plates at our meals with fruits and vegetables already, but the new Plate Icon goes further into fleshing out what a healthy plate looks like.

The clear, simple details:

*1/2 plate with Fruits & Vegetables– with a little more vegetables than fruits

*1/4 plate with Whole Grains– pasta, brown rice, quinoa, bread, etc

*1/4 plate the Protein Source– lean meat, nuts, beans, edamame, etc

*1 source of dairy on the side– could be cheese, lowfat milk (or soymilk), or yogurt

This new plate icon is very helpful and uncomplicated visual of how we can fill our plates with different food groups in a balanced, nutritious way. I LOVE that the new plate does not involve counting, measuring, or weighing food.  Healthy choices can be as easy as filling your plate with whole foods like the new USDA plate.  The plate is very simplified but this is where visiting a Registered Dietitian is very helpful to flesh out more details.  As always, what you (and your families) chew is up to you!  What do you think about the new plate icon? So, what’s on your plate?

This post is by Janet Zimmerman, a University of Memphis Nutrition Student and Schilling Nutrition Therapy, LLC Intern. You can follow Janet on Twitter as well at

Dietary Guidelines: What you CHEW is up to YOU!

As you might know, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines came out January 31th 2011.  These guidelines are meant to help America establish a nation full of healthy people.  But, as reminded by Leslie’s post, how well the guidelines work depends on each person individually, specifically YOU and ME.  So, let’s get started fleshing out the guidelines and putting them into practice.

The guidelines urged Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables, be mindful of their portion sizes, drink more water, consume much less salt, trans fats, and refined carbohydrates.  They also stressed the importance of limiting TV time, getting more physical activity, and consuming more low-fat dairy, whole grains, and seafood.

This list can seem a bit overwhelming so let’s break it down into 5 practical steps:

1)  Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Simply split your plate down the middle and fill half with produce.  Try side salads, sauteed vegetables, sweet potatoes, and roasted vegetables with olive oil (which is one of my favorites).  The “half-plate” method automatically helps with being mindful of portion sizes because there is only 1/4 the plate left for lean protein and 1/4 left for whole grains.


2) Reduce your intake of fast food, ready made meals, and convenience snacks. By limiting or eliminating these three categories, we are reducing our sodium, refined carbohydrate, and trans fat intakes.  Instead, carry unprocessed snacks (specifically whole grains, produce, and dairy products) with you.  Some of my favorites include homemade trail-mix (nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate chips), Chobani greek yogurt and an apple, air-popped popcorn (a whole grain!) with almonds, or a banana with some peanuts.

3) Drink more water and reduce energy-dense beverages. One thing that helps me be mindful of my thirst is carrying around a refillable water bottle during the day.  Refillable water bottles help you keep hydrated and lessen your desire to spend extra money on an energy-dense drink like Coke, Gatorade, Vitamin Water, or a frappacino.

4) Get more activity! Find something physically active that you LIKE to do and do it on a regular basis.  Focus on how your body feels when you use it and the energy that exercise gives you.  Do you like walking, running, biking, hiking, swimming, dancing, practicing yoga, lifting weights, or taking group classes? The right exercise for YOU is the one that you like doing and that you will keep doing!

5) Have a Plan! Remember a failure to plan is a plan to… Be proactive with YOUR health.  Take simple steps by planning out your meals a few days in advance, going to the grocery store, carrying healthy snacks and a water bottle with you, and scheduling your exercise time into your daily activities.

Start today by taking one of these 5 steps.  How does it make you feel? Do these steps increase your energy throughout the day?  We’d love to here from you in the comments.

Thanks to Janet Zimmerman, a University of Memphis Nutrition Student and Schilling Nutrition Therapy, LLC Intern, for another great post! You can follow Janet on Twitter as well at

2010 Dietary Guidelines Released: What will YOU do?

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines were released just an hour ago. Nutrition professionals across the nation will try (for the next several years) to translate the recommendations into useful and practical information for consumers. Not once did USDA moderators suggest that health and nutrition guidance may need to come in the form of working with your local nutrition professionals (registered dietitians) to aid in making dietary changes. Another deficit of the release was the failure to make it clear to the public that your nutrition and health status is up to one person and that is YOU. The government can give us suggestions all day long but, at the end of the day what you’re chewing is simply up to you! Most of the dietary guidelines could be helpful if one knew how to put them into practice.

Here are the key recommendations (and my two cents):

  • Balance calories to manage weight. I think knowing how to read a food label is helpful. Ingredients may contain allergens or substances you’d rather not consume. However, I think daily calorie-counting is a colossal waste of time and energy. Think about it… decades ago when we had no labels, we were not a society of overweight people. It has less to do with calories and more to do with paying attention hunger and fullness; and fueling with whole foods that satisfy and nourish.
  • Foods & food components to reduce. Most of the items suggested are reasonable. Reducing sodium will be a huge challenge for Americans given that much of the diet consists of convenience and fast foods.  Another food/food component to reduce was refined grains. Since starchy and snack-like foods are cheaper and more portable, we tend to eat them more. Decrease trans fats remains a guideline as well. Would it have been better to say decrease intake of convenience and fast foods to knock out this entire lot of food/food components to reduce? I say yes!
  • Foods & nutrients to increase. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. I agree.  The recommendation to increase nutrient-rich foods like dairy, whole grains, seafood, nuts, seeds, and healthful oils is a good one. Hopefully, it’s obvious that by eating more nutrient-rich foods like these, you would leave less room for the foods/food components you should eat less of…

There will be much talk about the 2010 Dietary Guidelines in the coming weeks and months. Remember, it’s up to YOU. Are there things you need to work on to improve your intake or your family’s intake? Will you ask a local dietitian for help? Have you already? Feel free to share in the comments section.

The State of the Kitchen Address

Well, you know the state of my kitchen… hallelujah, I finally have one! And, I’ve been cooking up a storm. As a matter of fact, I’m cooking chicken pot pie right now with Janet Zimmerman. But, let’s get to the point. We now know the state of America–some good and some bad. Have you ever thought about the state of your kitchen? The time has come! Start by asking yourself the following questions…

Is it unorganized?

Is it stocked with foods you need to eat less often?

Do you have trigger foods within eye-shot or on the counter-tops?

Is the snack cabinet in a tempting location?

Do you have a cluttered prep space? (yes, mom, I’m talking about you–don’t stack mags and mail in your prep space!)

Are you flying by the seat of your pants to come up with meals?

Screeeeeeeeeeeeeech! Back the truck up! Was your last grocery store visit a month ago???

If you answered YES to any of these, you’re starting to realize the state of your kitchen. Don’t worry about fixing all of the issues at once. Pick 1 or 2 items to focus on this weekend. You’ll probably even come up with a few more. If you enjoy your kitchen space and have room to move around, spending time in it may be less daunting. So what’s your plan to improve the state of your kitchen? We’d love to hear what you’re going to do in the comments.

Leslie Schilling, Dietitian, & Janet Zimmerman, Nutrition Student

A Greek Yogurt favorite to launch new flavors…

Those of you, who know me, know I always have Chobani in my fridge. It’s typically an afternoon snack for me between clients in the office. Did you know they have new flavors that will hit the shelf early 2011? I’m so excited and I know you will be too!! In Boston, at the American Dietetic Association Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo, I got to chat with Nikki Briggs, the Chobani dietitian. Here’s what she said…

If I were a protein-rich food, I’d be…

An EGG and here’s why!!

The quality of protein in an egg is the highest of any whole food; it is second only to breast milk. So, for grown-ups, this is as good a protein as you can get!  

Eggs are a great addition to breakfast because the protein aids in maintaining satiety (which can aid in weight management). Research suggests that eggs are consumed in the morning help people naturally eat less all day long. 

Eating whole eggs (yes, my friends the yolk and white) helps us get many wonderful nutrients!

Choline is important for brain function and heart health. Studies suggest that choline helps with prevention in Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease, and also a deficiency in choline may induce some cancers.

Vitamin B2 and vitamin B12 seem to help with glucose metabolism, combating damage to cells, and may help to improve cataracts.

Selenium may have a role in preventing cancer, especially prostate cancer.

Vitamin D, which is rarely found in food sources but can be synthesized by our skin in sunlight, has been linked to healthy bones, stronger immune systems, keeping the brain sharper as we age.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin are antioxidants that may decrease the risks of developing macular degeneration and cataracts. 

So if you aren’t adding eggs to your daily routine -get cracking (hee hee)! For great online resources about eggs check out the Egg Nutrition Center.

Thanks to Janet Zimmerman, a University of Memphis Nutrition Student and Schilling Nutrition Therapy, LLC Intern, for another great post! You can follow Janet on Twitter as well at