Nutrition 411: Tips for Utilizing MyPlate with Patients with Wounds
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Although patients with wounds often benefit from nutrition education, they often do not have the opportunity to meet with a registered dietitian (RD) or nutrition professional. Other healthcare practitioners (HCPs) must fill the educational gaps. Fortunately, many credible resources are available online to obtain patient handouts, sample meal plans, and other tools. One of these sources is the MyPlate program from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Many HCPs are not aware of the MyPlate program and the variety of resources available for free.
USDA Food Guides Past and Present
The USDA food guides were introduced between 1916 and the 1930s, with the publication of Food for Young Children and How to Select Food, which provided direction on the food groups and household measures, with a focus on “protective foods”. As the years passed, these guides were revised to account for new nutrition knowledge and changing times. Depending on your age, you may recall some of the various campaigns including: A Guide to Good Eating (Basic Seven) in the 1940s, Food for Fitness (Basic Four) from 1956 through the 1970s, the Hassle-Free Daily Food Guide in 1979, the Food Wheel in 1984, the Food Guide Pyramid in 1992, the MyPyramid Food Guidance System in 2005, and finally, in 2010, MyPlate.
The Food Guide Pyramid and the MyPyramid system were criticized for being too complicated and difficult for people to apply at the grocery store and at the dinner table. In response, MyPlate was created, and although some experts now criticize it as oversimplified, it is much better than the pyramids.
MyPlate.gov — a Wealth of Information and Resources
MyPlate was introduced along with the updated 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and was designed as a symbol to provide a reminder to eat healthfully. The illustration or icon depicts the five food groups (protein, vegetables, fruit, grains, and dairy) using a place setting as the background. A website, www.ChooseMyPlate.gov, was launched at the same time to provide simple, practical tips and information to help the average American make wise food choices. The selected messages for consumers are: 1) Balance calories by enjoying food but watch portion sizes; 2) Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and skim or 1% milk; and 3) Decrease consumption of sodium and sugary drinks.
HCPs can print several useful handouts for patient education, including the Let’s Eat for the Health of It brochure, which highlights the messages above. Another great resource is the 10 Tips Series in which each of 15 topics is broken into 10 simple tips in an easy-to-read format. The handouts parallel advice typically given to patients with wounds by highlighting lean protein sources and foods rich in vitamin C and vitamin A and by emphasizing limited consumption of empty calories.
Individualized Dietary Advice for Patients
General advice and broad nutrition principles may be the basis of nutrition education, but patients often want specific menus and recipes to help translate the information into meals. To meet that need, a sample 7-day, 2,000-calorie menu with recipes based on the food groups is available. Patients can log on to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov to receive individualized eating plans based on their lifestyle and food preferences. At the end of 2011, the USDA released a tool called the SuperTracker that facilitates personalized recommendations for what and how much to eat based on physical activity. Each user can track his or her food intake and physical activity utilizing a large database of foods and activities. Additional features such as goal setting, virtual coaching, weight tracking, and journaling are also available.