UC’s My Healthy Plate article named 'paper of the year'
MyPlate icon clearly shows many Americans how to formulate healthy meals for their families with the proper proportions of fruits and vegetables, protein foods, grains and dairy products. However, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educators in Central California discovered that the infographic was too abstract for local low-literate families. They embarked on a years-long effort to translate the shapes and colors into a series pictures showing plates filled with healthful, real food.
The concept clicked, so county and campus-based researchers joined together to document the effectiveness of a new curriculum shaped around pictures of properly portioned plates of food to share with nutrition educators around the nation and world. They wrote an article, A Picture is worth a thousand words: Customizing MyPlate for low-literate, low-income families in 4 steps, which was published in the July-August 2015 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. In 2016, the article was named the “paper of the year” in a category of articles and research programs called “great educational material” (GEM).
In the paper, the researchers shared a four-step process for creating a set of meal photographs that will resonate with families in different communities.
The four steps are:
- Review food patterns and determine meal combinations – This is done by asking clientele what foods they recently fed their families. Once the foods are identified, they can be modified to meet MyPlate recommendations.
- Test meals and take final photographs – Prepare the meals, take photos and test the photos with the target audience.
- Develop and test education messages to accompany photos – Messages should have few words, use family vocabulary and be written for a low-literacy audience.
- Create and test education materials – After the suggested materials are created, they should be tested with the target audience.
The UC Cooperative Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is using the “My Healthy Plate” materials in reaching out to low-literacy and low-income families in California.
The authors of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior paper of the year are Mical Shilts researcher at UC Davis; Margaret Johns, nutrition, family and consumer science advisor in Kern County; Cathi Lamp, emeritus nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor in Tulare County; Connie Schneider, emeritus Youth, Families and Communities director for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Marilyn Townsend, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition education specialist in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis.
My Healthy Plate education materials are available at http://townsendlab.ucdavis.edu.