Plan Your Plate, Think About Your Drink, and Move a Little More February 24, 2012

Home > Articles > 

Plan Your Plate

We talk a lot about trying to eat more healthily, but how can you know if you have a healthy plate? You might remember the Food Pyramid that many of us were shown as kids, but that was pretty complicated. Now there's a new way to know if you have a healthy plate. It's called "My Plate". And it's the new food guide from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that replaces the Food Pyramid. You can learn a lot more about it here: At the simplest level, all you need to do is try to have half of your plate at each meal be fruits and vegetables - preferably not deep fried veggies - and then a quarter of your plate a low fat meat, fish, or plant-based protein and the final quarter a carbohydrate. Using a nine-inch plate will help you to serve yourself the recommended portion sizes. The site has a lot of great resources and has an interactive SuperTracker where you can track your progress and access a virtual health coach… pretty neat stuff! You can keep it as simple as you like or dive in deep if you want all the nitty gritty facts.

Think About Your Drink

A great way to cut out some extra calories is to think about your drink. For most folks water is the best drink for almost any occasion. With soda, sports drinks, juice, and other sugary drinks, not only do you take in a lot of sugar, but the calories don't fill you up. Also, energy drinks - as opposed to sports drinks - can actually be dangerous for children and so the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and adolescents not consume them. Dairy is a food group that we do need, and so milk can be a great healthy choice. As pediatricians, we're seeing more children with low levels of vitamin D. Additionally many kids (and adults) do not consume enough calcium. Low fat milk is a great way to get vitamin D and calcium. Most toddlers can begin whole milk at one year of age and then transition to low fat milk when they're two years old, unless you're directed otherwise by your child's doctor. How much is enough? Children two to three years old need 2 cups, children four to eight years old need 2 1/2 cups, and adults need 3 cups a day. Cheese (1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese) or 1 cup of yogurt also counts as a cup of milk. If lactose intolerance is a concern then consider trying lactose-free milk, an easier-to-digest yogurt (live and active cultures in yogurt help to digest lactose), or natural cheeses such as Cheddar, Mozzarella and Swiss that are lower in lactose.

Move a Little More

A great upcoming event for elementary aged kids and their siblings and families is the Marathon Kids Final Lap. Marathon Kids is offered in 20 public school districts in Central Texas. It's also offered at many private schools and to home schooled kids. Students complete 26 miles of walking or running either at home or in school and then complete their final lap in a fun event held every February. The event will be at AISD's Burger Stadium (3200 Jones Rd. Austin, Texas 78745). Austin ISD students complete their final lap at 9am and all other students complete their lap at 11am. There will be about 10,000 Marathon Kids at both sessions! And all will earn their 2012 Marathon Kids "Finisher" shirts, medals, and other prizes. There will also be Olympians and other VIPs present to sign autographs. I'll be there at the 9 a.m. lap with my Marathon Kid and so would love to see you there too! Come run your final lap with thousands of other Austin area Marathon Kids and you may even be able to pick up some prizes to help you plan your plate and think about your drink.


Stephen Pont, MD, MPH, FAAP
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Medical Director, Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity
Medical Director, Austin ISD Student Health Services
UT Southwestern, Austin - Department of Pediatrics
UT Austin - Department of Advertising

Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity
Empowering Families to Live Healthy Happy Live
CLinical * Education * Advocacy * Research

Watch us on YouTube