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The new half a plate strategy

Did you know that two weeks ago, the USDA and Health and Human Services (HHS) released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans?

This may sound like a non-event for the average consumer, but it actually was a monumental announcement. For the first time, these once-every-5-year guidelines, included a pretty strong message:

“Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.”

Of course, this is quite exciting for us in the fresh produce industry. But, what this means for the average American, is that they will have more healthy choices.

For kids in the school breakfast, snack and lunch programs, their choices for food will include more fruits and vegetables.

Those who are a part of the WIC program (Women, Infant and Children Feeding program), will receive vouchers for fresh produce.

For those in the military or who shop at commissaries, it will mean more healthy food choices.

But what’s most important, is a statement like this has a wide and important effect on supermarkets, food manufacturers, and restaurants. Believe it or not, when the government talks, businesses and consumers listen.

Start to notice the changes in the messages around you, based on these new guidelines:

Enjoy your food, but eat less. Avoid oversized portions.

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. 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.

It’s no secret that as a nation, we are fatter, more sedentary and subject to more chronic illness like heart disease, obesity and cancer.

What if we all pledged to follow these simple three guidelines every day? What if we supported these initiatives in local schools, at parties we attend and every day at our offices – and only offer healthy choices?

What if, when we went out to eat at a restaurant, we ordered steamed vegetables as our side dish and fresh fruit as our dessert? I bet we’d feel better, and of course, we would be healthier.

As an example, do you think it is a coincidence that McDonald’s changed their meal offerings to include more heart healthy choices in the last few years? Why are Chipotle and Panera Bread locations growing in popularity? (I think it’s because of their healthier food options.) Check out their stock prices. . .healthy offerings make stock prices go up.

So, next time you are thinking about what to have for dinner, I hope you’ll make half your plate fruits and vegetables!


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