Shalene McNeill: Where does beef fit in new USDA guidelines MyPlate graphic? |

Shalene McNeill: Where does beef fit in new USDA guidelines MyPlate graphic?

Courtesy graphicUSDA recently launched the "MyPlate" graphic, which is designed to look like a colorful place setting of what makes a nutritious meal.

The U.S. food industry enables Americans to spend less than 10 percent of their disposable income on groceries. Yet, despite this luxury, one-in-eight Americans still goes to bed hungry at night. On the flip side, obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., with more than 60 million Americans considered obese. USDA recently launched “MyPlate,” an updated take on Americans’ dietary needs.

Designed to look like a place setting, the simple and colorful MyPlate diagram shows the plate divided into quarters, representing fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins, with a “glass” to represent a serving of dairy. The new graphic has created quite the buzz among nutritionists, consumers and producers, and Shalene McNeill, Ph.D., R.D.. executive director of human nutrition research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) responded to the new guidelines.

“This straight-forward visual gets back to the basics, illustrating how to create a healthful plate with a balanced mix of nutrition from a variety of foods by providing simple and actionable steps for consumers to build healthier diets using protein-rich foods like lean beef, which provides nearly half of the daily value for protein in one 3-ounce serving in about 150 calories,” credited McNeill, of the new MyPlate plan. “Nutrient dense foods like lean beef, make it easier to ‘enjoy our food, but eat less’ as the 2010 Dietary Guidelines encourage.”

Yet, many are concerned that protein didn’t earn a large enough portion of the plate. However McNeill said the new guidelines are consistent with the recommendations of the past decade.

“One very important point to share: this protein recommendation is consistent with the amount of protein recommended by the Guidelines for the past decade and as you can see, protein is a major player in building a healthy plate,” explained McNeill. “And, this icon is meant to give Americans a goal for what should be included on their plates. The fact is that lean beef is an essential building block for consumers to enjoy a healthful plate. Few foods offer so many nutrients for so few calories like beef does. On average, a 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides 10 essential nutrients (protein, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin, selenium phosphorous, choline, iron and riboflavin) for about 150 calories on average.”

The simplicity of MyPlate makes an excellent graphic for busy families to reference, and the USDA offers additional guidelines for consumers to follow.

USDA recommends the following: “Enjoy your food, but eat less. Avoid oversized portions. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Make at least half your grains whole grains. Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk. Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals – and choose the foods with lower numbers. Drink water instead of sugary drinks.”

As a nutritionist, McNeill is often asked about how she eats and her personal thoughts on diet and nutrition. Here’s her take on the new recommendations and things Americans should think about when choosing what goes on their plates.

“As someone who gets asked how to eat all the time, this is what I believe is important for people to understand about beef: Lean beef is a real-life solution for helping people meet the Dietary Guidelines,” said McNeill. “The fact is that 95 percent of people already enjoy beef. Building a healthy diet with foods you enjoy like lean beef will help you stick to a healthy diet longer. I believe in balance, variety and moderation. With more than 29 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean, it is easy to build healthful meals that include lean meats, whole grains, vegetables, fruits and fat-free dairy. By selecting nutrient-rich foods from all of the food groups, it is easy to create great-tasting and satisfying meals based on individual food preferences and cultural traditions that support a healthful lifestyle.”

For more information on the new USDA Dietary Guidelines, link to, where Americans can learn more about healthy living and print off the MyPlate graphic for quick reference.


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