My Plate: How Your Tax Dollars Can Help You Live Healthier

English: USDA MyPlate nutritional guide icon

USDA MyPlate nutritional guide replaces the decade-old Food Pyramid.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we move through the first month of the New Year, you may be looking for help in losing weight and building a healthier lifestyle.  If this sounds like you, you are not alone.  Making changes to diet, exercise, health and wellbeing are the most common New Year’s resolutions made every year and with an obesity rate amongst American adults of 66%, there are a lot of us looking to make these kinds of lifestyle changes.  Unfortunately, many of us are looking for a quick fix, a fad diet, or a magic pill that will make all our weight worries go away which science has shown again and again, doesn’t exist.  The best way to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, and protect your health, is to build a healthy lifestyle which takes hard work, dedication, and significant behavioral changes.

In an effort to stop the rapidly rising obesity rate, in 2011 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) introduced a new strategy for communicating the essential ingredients for a healthy diet called My Plate.  My Plate replaced the nearly 20 year old food pyramid and sought to provide a simpler way for people to understand how the recommended servings of each of the food groups add up to a healthy diet.  The new symbol is a circle which represents your plate.  The circle is divided into sections representing each of the five food groups.  The size of each section represents the percentage of your diet that should be made up of that food group.

Since the launch of My Plate, the USDA has released several tools aimed at helping Americans follow these recommendations and adopt healthier lifestyles.  If you are looking to improve your health, get control of your weight, and make positive changes this year, these tools can help you achieve your goals.  From tracking your food intake and exercise to understanding the effect of empty calories, the tools provided as part of the My Plate campaign provide solid support for making lifestyle changes and unlike other tools that provide similar functionality, these tools are free.  You can find information about the My Plate program and links to the tools at


The SuperTracker tool provides an easy way to track the food you eat and how much exercise you get.  Unlike some other food trackers, this tool allows you to plan meals ahead of time, analyze the impact different foods can have on your daily intake, and get detailed information about the nutritional content of your diet.   In addition to the base tracking and reporting capabilities, SuperTracker also lets you set personal goals and then tracks your progress toward achieving those goals using your personal data.

Daily Food Plans

Another tool provided in the My Plate program called Daily Food Plans gives you a non-electronic planning tool that you can print out and take with you.  This helps you plan how to eat and supports tracking everything you eat or drink during the day so that you can enter it into SuperTracker.

Empty Calorie Counting

One new concept in the My Plate program is the idea of empty calories, those calories we eat that provide no real nutritional value.  The program recommends limiting the number of empty calories you eat each day in order to ensure you are getting the nutrients your body needs.  This tool helps you understand empty calories and how they affect your diet.

For a list of healthy, delicious recipes, go to our recipe page on Fill Your Plate. You will be certain to find a new favorite recipe ranging from your favorite ingredients to what’s in season.


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