Myplate_white Last week, I introduced the USDA's new MyPlate program and discussed ways to choose healthy foods in each food group (check out the post here if you missed it). This week in Part 2 of Maximizing MyPlate Guidelines, I'll dive deeper into new recommendations for calories, sodium, and added sugar intake.

We here at ShopWell applaud the USDA for creating straightforward, actionable guidelines to help us reach our food and nutrition goals.  The information found at brings one's attention back to foods at each meal by asking Americans to fill a quarter of their plates each with vegetables, fruits, protein, and grains and have a serving of dairy on the side.

We are also proud to be a Community Partner in the USDA/CNPP National Communicators Network charged with "reaching consumers and helping them make meaningful, sustainable, healthy dietary changes, based on the Dietary Guidelines".

Take a moment and ask yourself: is my pantry stocked with the foods that meet these new guidelines and are right for me?

We'll show you how to make improvements.  Choose one of the following areas to improve and use the tips, searches, and lists to start trading up the foods in your pantry today.

  • Calories: Know your daily number and the calories per serving in your favorite foods

Knowing the right amount of calories you should consume each day is important to maintaining a healthy weight. Also limiting empty calories from added sugars and solid fats can have a big impact on your health.

Use ShopWell's calorie calculator to personalize your nutrition label by clicking the link at the top of the Nutrition Facts Panel. Enter your height, weight, age, and exercise level to see the amount of calories you should stay under for the day. (If your dietitian or doctor suggests another level that is right for you, you can always click 'adjust' to enter the new number.)

Your daily calorie level will appear at the top of the nutrition facts panel as a reminder. Remember to read the calorie level and serving size amount on each label to see how much of the food you should eat. 

  • Sodium: Look For Lower Sodium Food

 Use ShopWell's Trade Ups tables and Nutrition Facts Panels to see the sodium level per serving in your favorite foods. When choosing healhier options, pay attention to this number. In most cases a similar food with a higher ShopWell score will have a lower sodium number.

As a general rule, if a food is equal in other areas, choose the one that is lower in sodium. Here are some foods low in sodium to help get you started.

  • Sugar: Swap Out Sugary Beverages for Water

A great tip to help you Trade Up your sugary beverages to water is to keep a plate of sliced fruit in the fridge and add them as needed to your water. Strawberries, pineapple, and grapes, as well as citrus fruits like orange, lime, and grapefruit all work well. Add some to your grocery list today.

When you would normally reach for a sugary drink, pour a glass of water (or seltzer water) and add a couple of slices of fruit. After a week or so, you will start naturally reaching for water instead of your sugary beverages.

Unsweetened flavored tea (full of antioxidants) like lychee, apricot, and mango can also be a good subsitute if you are looking for another beverage option to add to your list.

Remember it only takes one change to started. Pick the area that seems the easiet to change first. Then, when you master that one, choose another and so on. Over time your whole pantry and eating habits will change.

So what are you waiting for? Start trading up your ShopWell grocery list to make it more MyPlate friendly today!

(And don't forget to share your healthy lists and Trade Ups with your family and friends).