Michelle Obama, Regina Benjamin
First lady Michelle Obama greets Surgeon General Regina Benjamin at the Agriculture Department in Washington, Thursday, June 2, 2011, during an event to introduce the department's "My Plate" _ a simple circle divided into quadrants that contain fruits, vegetables, protein and grains _ which will replace USDA's food pyramid, which has been around in various forms since 1992. It comes with an accompanying website. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh

A bit confused by the "food pyramid" that's been around for years to let you know how much protein, vegetables, grains and dairy you should eat daily?

Now, adults and parents looking for a visual way to be sure they're meeting their nutritional needs or the needs of their family can check out the USDA's food portion guidelines as they would appear on a 9-inch dinner plate.

At choosemyplate.gov, viewers can see the visual cues about how much of each food type they should eat. The picture shows that half of a plate should contain fruits and vegetables, one-fourth of the plate should be proteins, and the final fourth should be filled with grains. A small circle just to the side of the plate indicates dairy.

Tasha Foster, a registered dietician who works for the state Department of Health Services, explained that the new guidelines on what to eat were released in January, but the new visual cue for that just came out this week.

Arizona's Nutrition Network actually created its own portion plate in 2009 to complement an ongoing nutrition campaign. Nutrition experts take it into schools during lessons on healthy eating.

The federal government's plate was designed to be more "consumer friendly" for the public to help them with food choices, Foster said.

"It can be used as a tool to compare after their plate's been fixed," she said.

But don't be fooled into copying the diagram with your typical dinner or restaurant plate. Those are usually bigger than 9 inches, she said.

Funny, there's no spot for dessert on the plate.

But it's not banned.

"There's information on discretionary calories that can be eaten throughout the week online," Foster said.

More information about what to eat can be found at eatwellbewell.org.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or mreese@evtrib.com

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