MyPlate feels more like MySpreadsheet
June 15th, 2011
01:42 PM ET

MyPlate feels more like MySpreadsheet

Goodbye spontaneity. Hello, Excel spreadsheet.

It’s only Day 3 and it dawned on me how much I have to plan.

When I wake up, I visualize my bento box divided into food groups: vegetable, fruits, protein, dairy and grains.

Have I planned my next meal? Have I covered all my food groups? How much does everything cost?

I started a weeklong challenge to eat closely to MyPlate on a budget of $61.27. This is far easier for a single adult, than a family with children and picky eaters.

My budget includes groceries and eating out.  I plan to eat at restaurants as I normally would, as long as it's within budget and the nutritional guidelines.

My lifestyle has already changed.  In the morning, instead of grabbing whatever I feel like, toast, breakfast burrito or yogurt, I have to think about whether I’ve hit all my major food groups.

It made me realize a few things:

Epiphany #1: I have to plan.


Epiphany #2: I regularly don't get enough fruits and veggies.

One kind reader asked: “Do you have such poor impulse control that you can't eat vegetables?”

I usually eat things like turkey or chicken sandwiches and pasta.  They're not bad for you, but a few  leaves of lettuce on your sandwich and basil sprigs in your pasta don’t amount to a bevy of veggies.

My point is that vegetables and fruits were nowhere near half of my food intake, and I’m trying to change that in this challenge.

Epiphany #3: I need to improve my cooking.

To all the healthy foods out there, I apologize if I’ve made you look like a sad version of an adult's Lunchables.

It’s not you, it’s me.

Dear couscous, I know I made you look bland and dull.  You deserve better than that.

For lunch, this was wheat couscous, apples, broccoli and peanuts and cashews.

For dinner, I had a grilled cheese sandwich combining spinach, portobello mushrooms on wheat bread.  I couldn't think of a protein component, so I threw together a "deviled egg."  Except I forgot mustard and mayo.

My brother remarked, “Your deviled eggs look terrible.”

So it looked like yellow sawdust.

Feeling sorry for my lack of culinary chops, my foodie cube neighbor has graciously loaned me her stack of Cooking Light today, and I hope I can spruce up the menu.

Thanks for all the great MyPlate tips and advice. Catch me on Twitter at @MadisonCNN.

If you're curious, give the challenge a try.  Happy eating!

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Sekemet

    Get out of the habit of buying bad foods and look forward to Squash, Spinach Vegetable Stew over Millet. This is a healthy delicious real true Power Lunch.

    June 15, 2011 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. thinker

    Instead of waking up every day with no idea of what you're going to eat, try this: Plan a rough menu for the week. Plan to have some items more than once. Prep your ingredients – wash, chop, and cook (when appropriate). If you fill your fridge at the beginning of the week with a variety of almost-ready-to-go items that you can mix and match, your decision-making is greatly lessened and filling your bento box will be much more a pleasure than a chore.

    June 15, 2011 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Allen

    You can also look at the complete _day_ as your plate instead of trying to cover all the different categories each meal. This would make it significantly easier, since a lunch of a turkey sandwich can get balanced by a veggie stir-fry for dinner.

    June 15, 2011 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Grant

    Part of the intensity to your planning is that you are basically trying to prepare 4 unique items per meal.
    Instead of having the your adult lunchable's design... try it from the raw ingredient standpoint. Look at a dish that you enjoy, that tastes good, that has some amount of veggies in it. Alter the ratios of meat:veggies:complex carb shuttle until that dish fits the dietary requirements. If you want to blog it like you are doing so far, take the components of a chicken-veggie-pasta dish and put them in your boxes before you cook them.
    Making 4 stand alone items for each meal is going to leave you the (incorrect) assumption that meeting these guidelines requires a lot of work over the usual, when really it is just a matter of not skipping the produce section when you enter the grocery store and incorporating those veggies into the dishes you already eat.

    June 15, 2011 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Kalerocks

    Here's an interesting blogpost of what healthy meals look like. There's lots of veggies. Don't go look at it if you are hungry, lol.


    June 15, 2011 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. TheBudgeteer

    Grilled cheese and eggs may be delicious but isn't that a-lot of cholesterol?

    June 15, 2011 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Lily

    if you're having a grilled cheese sandwich, doesn't the cheese act as both your protein and dairy ?
    adding the deviled is overkill and over the top cholesterol.
    You seriously are making this so much harder than it has to be.

    June 15, 2011 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Spanish Inquisition

    Excercise often and eat & drink responsibly ! That's all anyone really needs to know.

    June 15, 2011 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • EMT

      The problem is that people are too stupid, fat and lazy. There is a reason why we have become the fattest nation in the world and needs cute little colorful pictures to get us to eat what is right and good for us.

      June 15, 2011 at 18:04 | Report abuse |
  9. Tapati

    The food doesn't need to be in neat compartments–that's just a graphic illustration, not a requirement. Nor do all of those elements need to be in every meal, just add up throughout the day. Cheese was a protein already so no need to add the eggs.

    There are lots of one-dish meals that have all of those groups, stews and salads and casseroles. Cooking ahead and putting food in containers can make it fast and easy during the week.

    June 15, 2011 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Mytime

    Why are you making this so hard? All you need is some lean protein, whole wheat bread or pasta, fruits and veggies.

    June 15, 2011 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jennifer Bardsley

    I'm trying this in March. Can I follow the MyPlate requirements and still follow the USDA Cost of Food at Home "Thrifty Budget"? Here's my blog from the Everett Daily Herald about this experiment:


    February 26, 2013 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
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