USDA’s ‘Plate’ Makes Good Nutrition Easier to Digest, Wegmans Nutritionists Say

June 2, 2011 Updated Jun 2, 2011 at 12:53 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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USDA’s ‘Plate’ Makes Good Nutrition Easier to Digest, Wegmans Nutritionists Say

June 2, 2011 Updated Jun 2, 2011 at 12:53 PM EDT

Rochester, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- What does a healthy meal look like?

The new icon from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that replaces MyPyramid helps people visualize it by showing how foods would fit on a plate. Vegetables and fruit take up half the space. Grains and protein divide the other half. A serving of dairy sits off to the side.

USDA Dietary Guidelines suggest that people also take these steps to improve their diets:

• Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.

• Enjoy your food, but eat less.

• Avoid oversized portions.

• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

• Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and choose the foods with lower numbers.

• Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

The government’s new icon is a move in the right direction, members of the nutrition team at Wegmans Food Markets say.

“When helping people make better food choices, we think a simple approach is more likely to succeed,” says Wegmans’ Nutrition and Product Labeling Manager Jane Andrews, M.S., R.D. “We’ve also worked to make messages practical, and it’s interesting to see the similarities between our efforts and those of the federal government.”

One parallel is Wegmans’ “Half-Plate Healthy” model, showing a plate of food with the slogan, “Fill half your plate with veggies, fruit, and salad, and half with anything else.”

Like the new USDA icon, it pulls together several messages - eat more fruits and vegetables, have smaller portions of other foods, reduce fats and sodium – into one picture of how your plate would look if you followed that advice. It’s a versatile idea that fits a person’s favorite foods and is easy to do at home or away, as the “Half Plate Healthy” video on wegmans.com explains.

Another parallel between the new USDA icon and ideas from the nutrition team at Wegmans is the Daily Meal Template, to help people choose meals and snacks throughout the day that are appealing and nutritionally balanced, with right-size portions. “A plate-shaped diagram is an intuitive way of helping people understand how to put good nutrition on their plates,” says Andrews. “If the government, schools, and food companies all strive to convey what better food choices look like, everyone wins.”

Wegmans’ reminders that lead people in healthier directions are the four Eat Well, Live Well principles. They say:

1. Strive for five cups of fruits and vegetables every day.

2. Get moving (increase physical activity).

3. Calories count – so watch your portions.

4. Measure your progress (know your numbers like weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol).

“We think that if people actually make half their plates fruits and vegetables, as the government also suggests, they’re halfway home to improving the odds of good health over their lifetime,” Andrews says. “More fruits and veggies automatically boost intake of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber while lowering sodium, fats, and calories. Over the years, this can yield huge health dividends and protect against many diseases.”

As a company, Wegmans is committed to giving customers and employees tools to make it easier to put good nutrition on the plate, and to take steps toward healthy living. Andrews says: “We keep working at it every day, from both the education side, and the food side, keeping meal choices healthy, easy and affordable.”

Examples?

• The popular $6 meals include a big menu of vegetable and fruit side dishes that feature fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables.

• Every issue of Wegmans Menu magazine debuts new recipes with at least a cup of fruits and vegetables.

• Videos at wegmans.com show how to make many of these dishes.

• Many new Wegmans products give healthy choices a family-friendly twist, such as the 100% soft whole wheat sandwich bread, or Wegmans Super Pasta, made from 100% whole grains.

The real challenge for Wegmans, Andrews says, is figuring out ways to help families put good-tasting, nutritious and affordable meals on the table. “We’re not about just selling ingredients. We’re about giving people real-life tools and solutions, whether they make dishes from scratch with one of our recipes, use our cleaned-and-cut veggies to save prep work, take home a $6 meal, or pick up a rotisserie chicken, bagged salad, and whole-grain baguette for dinner.”