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THE NEW AMERICAN PLATE
The New American Plate is based on recommendations from the expert panel report Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, published by the American Institute for Cancer Research.
The New American Plate emphasizes the kinds of foods that can reduce our risk for disease. It also shows how to enjoy all foods in sensible portions. It promotes a healthy weight as just one part of an overall healthy lifestyle. It's not a short-term "diet" to use for weight loss, but a new way to eat for better health. A large and growing body of research shows that what we eat and how physically active we are affect our risk of developing cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and many other chronic health problems.
Proportion: What's on the New American Plate?
At the center of the New American Plate is a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans should cover two-thirds (or more) of your plate. Fish, poultry, meat or low-fat dairy should cover one-third (or less) of the plate. We should all make sure to eat at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits each day. Vegetables and fruits supply vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (natural substances found only in plants) that protect the body's cells from damage by cancer causing agents. Juice (100 percent fruit or vegetable) does count toward your "5 or more" goal, but most of your servings should come from solid fruits and vegetables.
The AICR recommends eating at least 6-8 servings of whole grains and legumes each day. Make sure to include whole grains such as brown rice, barley, quinoa, whole-grain breakfast cereal, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread in your meals each day. They are higher in fiber and phytochemicals than refined grains like white bread and white rice. Legumes such as peas and dried beans, including lentils, kidney, garbanzo and black beans are high in fiber, protein, and B vitamin folate, which may play a role in preventing cancer.
If you eat meat, choose to keep the portions small - a cooked 3 ounces is a reasonable size. Poultry or fish are naturally lower in saturated fat, they are better for your heart when prepared and served in a low-fat way. AICR advises people to limit consumption of red meat to less than 18 ounces per week. That means including 3-ounce servings of red meat in only 6 of your 21 weekly meals. There is convincing evidence linking red meats and processed meats to colon cancer.
Calorie density measures the amount of calories per amount of food. Foods with less calorie density have fewer calories per ounce than foods with high calorie density. Vegetables, fruits and beans have low calorie density. Fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, creamy dressings and high-fat snack foods have high calorie density. Research shows that eating low-calorie-dense plant foods can help you manage your weight. Low-calorie-dense foods fill you up quickly, thanks to their high water and fiber content.
The New American Plate recognizes that it's not just what we eat that matters, but also how much we eat. According to a government report, Americans eat 250 more calories daily than we did 30 years ago. That works out to an extra 26 pounds of body weight every year. To figure out the actual amount of food on your plate, you can use the standard serving sizes established by the USDA. Standard serving sizes also provide consistent measurements when comparing foods for calories, fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals. The size of the portion you eat should depend on your needs:
Eating a plant-based diet and reducing your portions are two important strategies in any weight-loss plan. The third strategy is physical activity. Always check with your doctor before starting or changing your exercise plan. AICR recommends being physically active every day in any way for 30 minutes or more. Eating for a healthy life can also mean eating for a healthy weight.