New food plate icon recognizes important role of grains

by World Grain Staff
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ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, U.S. — The new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food plate icon, released on June 2, illustrates how consumers can eat a healthy diet, every day and at every meal. The MyPlate icon, which replaces the MyPyramid image used since 1992, depicts proportional wedges of grains, fruits, vegetables and protein on a plate. Grains comprise a large portion, signaling that USDA recognizes the importance of grains such as enriched white rice and whole grain brown rice in the diet, said the USA Rice Federation.

The MyPlate icon is meant to serve as a daily reminder about what foods should comprise each meal, and to translate the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), released in January, into easy-to-understand consumer recommendations. Grains, fruits and vegetables covering about three-fourths of the plate, illustrate the recommendation that 45-65% of calories come from carbohydrates, which should be natural, wholesome foods that contain no added sugars or saturated fat.

According to Dr. Keith Ayoob, a leading national nutrition expert and associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, the plate will help consumers make better choices.

"As a nutritionist I applaud the emphasis on vegetables and fruits. But, as a clinical practitioner who works with families, I know how difficult it can be for people to choose healthy foods. Here's where rice can be a great friend,” he said. “People are already used to eating rice with other foods, and rice is a perfect vehicle to deliver fruits and vegetables in a variety of flavor options."

"The USA Rice Federation believes that consumers will benefit from this new nutrition communication initiative, and we look forward to working with USDA to educate the public and nutrition professionals about it over the coming months and years," said Betsy Ward, president and chief executive officer of the USA Rice Federation. "The portion of the plate representing nutritious grains signifies the importance of rice in a healthy, balanced diet. Consumers can feel good about choosing whole grain brown rice and enriched, fortified white rice each day."

"It's important to note that enriched, fortified grains are the largest source of folic acid in the U.S. diet, providing more than 15% of the total folic acid intake," said Ayoob. "In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently named folic acid fortification of grain as one of the 'ten great public health achievements of the past decade in the U.S.' for its role in decreasing neural tube birth defects in the U.S. by 36% since 1998. Enriched white rice is a good source of folate, providing 23% of the 400 mcgs women need every day."
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