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Sunday, June 5, 2011

RIP Food Pyramid, Hello My Plate

RIP Food Pyramid and good riddance. USDA has basically announced the death of their 20 year old, often maligned food pyramid and replaced it with a picture of a plate and a glass of milk. The new Choose My Plate nutritional guideline is very easy to understand and immediately tells the consumer what a balanced meal is and what types of foods to include in each meal. Take a look:
This new guideline for eating clearly shows that half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, about a fourth grains and about a fourth protein. It also clearly notes that dairy should be part of your meal. How much simpler can a dietary guideline to good eating get?
Reactions to this new USDA healthy eating pictorial have been favorable. Jennifer Wilkins, PhD, RD from Cornell University notes:

MyPyramid was poorly understood by the public and ineffective as the symbol of a healthful diet.
Of course the title of her article says it even more clearly, "Good Riddance to My Pyramid" . []
The editorial from the NY Times states that the food pyramid grew harder to understand and more abstract over the years. {Read more:}
Each semester in my classes on child nutrition, I ask students to observe a child eating a meal then analyze and comment on that meal as to whether it is balanced, how nutritious it is. It is always amazing to me that many students state a meal of chicken nuggets, French fries and water is balanced and nutritious. When they learn one should eat a minimum of 5 fruits and vegetables a day, they are shocked. When I recommended 2 servings of fruits and/or vegetables at a meal, they were surprised. Comparing the child's meal they observed to the Food Pyramid offered little insight as to the nutritional value of the meal the child had eaten. This summer I will do the exercise with a new group of students, only this time they will compare the child's meal to this new MyPlate. How much easier it will be for them to evaluate the nutritional adequacy of the child's meal, or of their own meals.
What does your plate look like? Is it half full of fruits and vegetables? Is dairy served at every meal? Not necessarily milk but cheese or yogurt . USDA provides more guidance on their website by stating:
  • Make half your grains whole grains
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
On the whole I think the new MyPlate is a winner.
(For more information go to the website:

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