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While most people strive to eat more nutritious foods on a daily basis, understanding how to accomplish that goal every day can be a challenge. A new website has been designed to help users find easy ways to understand how to make better food choices. Recently, Innovative Media Research and Extension (IMRE) at New Mexico State University collaborated with NMSU’s Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition (ICAN) and a U.S. of Agriculture-funded program in Puerto Rico to create MyPlateMyDay.org, a website that customizes daily meal plans, which incorporates foods from different cultures.
The site is an extension of MyPlate.gov, which the USDA established to help people understand how many servings to eat from different food groups using a food plate as the graphic representation. The food plate replaced the food pyramid in 2011. Currently, IMRE, a department in NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service, has developed two versions — New Mexico and Puerto Rico, both are available in English and Spanish.
“When you are thinking about what you eat each day, it’s important to do it with the foods you actually eat,” said IMRE Interim Department Head Barbara Chamberlin. “This tool offers tips, like putting veggies on a sandwich, and it helps you see how posole, burritos and other regionally specific foods fit into a healthy menu.”
With the site, users plan a day’s menu and receive visual prompts for foods they may need more of, such as vegetables, or limit, such as fats. The tool is a proactive site that guides users to experiment and practice thinking about their nutritional needs in an accessible way. MyPlateMyDay also is available on mobile devices.
“We use the site in our educational sessions – to extend learning and further explain the concepts we teach in class,” said ICAN Director Donna Sauter. “MyPlateMyDay really benefits our participants by providing an easy-to-use tool that will help with planning healthy meals that includes familiar foods.”
In developing MyPlateMyDay, Chamberlin said designers worked to solve frustrations users faced with MyPlate. Challenges included planning for an entire day and how to achieve the recommended servings; determining how to categorize combination foods such as chicken noodle soup; and handling unique foods such as posole (a soup or stew with hominy and, traditionally, pork), malinga and yucca (both ARE root vegetables originating in South America).
Additionally, the site can be customized for age groups.
The Puerto Rico version of the site was tailored to Puerto Rican culture, which often includes items such as fried plantain (cooking bananas), mofongo (plantains are the main ingredient) and sancocho (a traditional soup), said Maria L. Plaza-Delestre, associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology Program at the University Puerto Rico. New Mexicans can find their foods on the site, and the design team hopes to expand the tool to other specific menus.