Start Simple: A New Choose MyPlate Tool

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The new Start Simple with MyPlate delivers what the name implies: easy-to-understand and practical recommendations for healthy eating.

About half of all American adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity or diabetes. These illnesses are often related to food choices and physical inactivity. My clients often complain that there is so much conflicting information about what to eat and what not to eat that they give up and don’t make any changes. Start Simple with MyPlate provides a variety of easy recommendations that anyone can tailor to fit their individual situation.

MyPlate was originally developed by the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion to help consumers put the 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines into practice with meals and snacks.

Start Simple is the most recent update to MyPlate and focuses on six primary recommendations:

  1. Focus on whole fruit by choosing fresh fruit in season to save money, keeping fruit easily available on the kitchen counter or in the front of the fridge, and enjoying fruit for a naturally sweet dessert.
  2. Vary veggies by choosing different colors (for example red tomatoes, green spinach, purple cabbage, orange carrots, yellow peppers) and trying out different types of vegetables.
  3. Make half your grains whole grains by choosing popcorn as a crunchy snack, opting for whole-grain cereal, and trying out an ancient grain like quinoa or amaranth.
  4. Vary your protein routine by keeping frozen seafood or canned tuna or salmon on hand for a quick meal, choosing nuts for a snack, or planning a weekly meat-free meal using legumes like lentil soup, chili with kidney or pinto beans, or a bean and cheese burrito.
  5. Move to low-fat or fat-free milk with meals and in cooking and choose low-fat or fat-free yogurt for snacks.
  6. Limit: drink and eat less sodium, saturated fat and added sugar by using spices and herbs instead of salt for seasoning food and cooking; grilling, roasting or baking when cooking foods instead of frying; and choosing unsweetened beverages.

Start Simple provides different tips and suggestions for each of these recommendations for six different audience groups: preschoolers (age 2-5), kids (age 6-11), students (teens and college years), adults, families, and professionals and is available in 21 different languages.

Looking for more specific recommendations on meal planning and exercise? Use the MyPlate Plan! Enter your age, sex, height, weight and physical activity level to receive personalized recommendations that include total daily calorie information and guidelines on the number of servings from each food group.

Need more specific suggestions on how to implement the meal plan? This Action Guide has a variety of tips, videos, and fun activities such as food group quizzes and grocery store bingo designed to make learning about healthier eating fun and engaging.

Health professionals and teachers will also find that these toolkits provide a wealth of information, tips, and ideas to share with clients and students.

Our review: The new Start Simple approach to using the Choose MyPlate guidelines makes healthy eating much more approachable and practical for today’s busy families. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or time-consuming and can lead to a longer and healthier life.

By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDE, CPT, CHWC


  1. LibreTexts. Contributed by The University of Hawai’i Human Nutrition. Using MyPlate to Plan a Healthy Diet. last updated 4-27-19. Accessed 11-25-19.
  2. USDA Choose My Plate. Start Simple with MyPlate. accessed 11-25-19
  3. USDA Choose My Plate. MyPlate Plan. accessed 11-25-19
  4. USDA Choose My Plate. MyPlate Action Guide. accessed 11-25-19 accessed 11-25-19
  5. USDA Choose My Plate. MyPlate Resources. accessed 11/29/19
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