Friday, June 3, 2011

New Food Plate Icon Recognizes Important Role of Grains in a Healthy Diet

The new United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food plate icon, released today, illustrates in a simple but powerful way how consumers can eat a healthy diet, every day and at every meal. The MyPlate icon, which replaces the MyPyramid image used since 1992, depicts proportional wedges of grains, fruits, vegetables and protein on a plate. Grains comprise a large portion, signaling that USDA recognizes the importance of grains such as enriched white rice and whole grain brown rice in the diet.

The MyPlate icon is meant to serve as a daily reminder about what foods should comprise each meal, and to translate the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), released in January, into easy-to-understand consumer recommendations. Grains, fruits and vegetables covering about three-fourths of the plate, illustrate the recommendation that 45-65% of calories come from carbohydrates, which should be natural, wholesome foods that contain no added sugars or saturated fat.

According to Dr. Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, CDN, a leading national nutrition expert and associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, the plate will help consumers make better choices. “As a nutritionist I applaud the emphasis on vegetables and fruits. But, as a clinical practitioner who works with families, I know how difficult it can be for people to choose healthy foods. Here’s where rice can be a great friend. People are already used to eating rice with other foods, and rice is a perfect vehicle to deliver fruits and vegetables in a variety of flavor options.”

“The USA Rice Federation believes that consumers will benefit from this new nutrition communication initiative, and we look forward to working with USDA to educate the public and nutrition professionals about it over the coming months and years,” says Betsy Ward, president and CEO of the USA Rice Federation. “The portion of the plate representing nutritious grains signifies the importance of rice in a healthy, balanced diet. Consumers can feel good about choosing whole grain brown rice and enriched, fortified white rice each day."

“It’s important to note that enriched, fortified grains are the largest source of folic acid in the U.S. diet, providing more than 15% of the total folic acid intake,” states Dr. Ayoob. “In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently named folic acid fortification of grain as one of the ‘ten great public health achievements of the past decade in the US’ for its role in decreasing neural tube birth defects in the U.S. by 36% since 1998. Enriched white rice is a good source of folate, providing 23% of the 400 mcgs women need every day,” he explains.

Fast Facts About Rice:

The average American should eat six servings of grain foods daily, at least half of those whole grains and the rest enriched grains, according to the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Published research shows that rice eaters have healthier diets and reduced risk of obesity, heart disease and certain cancers.
Rice is affordable. A serving of rice costs just 10 cents, making it a nutritional bargain.

Rice is low calorie, sodium-free, and does not contain added sugars, trans or saturated fats.

The USA Rice Federation is the global advocate for the U.S. rice industry, conducting programs to inform consumers about domestically-grown rice. U.S. farmers produce an abundance of short, medium and long grain rice, as well as organic and specialty rices including jasmine, basmati, Arborio, red aromatic and black japonica, among others. Farmers in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas grow some 20 billion pounds of rice each year according to the highest quality standards. Eighty five percent of the rice Americans consume is grown in the USA. Look for the U.S. rice industry’s “Grown in the U.S.” logo on packages of 100% domestically-grown rice.

For more information about the benefits of rice and recipes, visit Check out our Facebook page at and visit our Twitter page,

Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, CDN, is an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, where he also directs the Nutrition Clinic at the Rose F. Kennedy Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center.

In his clinical practice, Dr. Ayoob has worked with adults, children and families for over 25 years. He spent nine years as a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. He is the author of The Uncle Sam Diet, The Four-Week Eating Plan for a Thinner, Healthier America, based on the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In 2006 he was integral in helping the Walt Disney Corporation form a global nutrition policy, and he continues to work with Disney to update and build on this effort.

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