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Health Team

Food pyramid out, 'My Plate' in for healthy eating

Posted June 2, 2011

— The Agriculture Department says "My Plate," its new healthy eating symbol, aims to show that nutrition doesn't have to be complicated.

"My Plate" — a simple circle divided into quadrants that contain fruits, vegetables, protein and grains — will replace USDA's food pyramid, which has been around in various forms since 1992. It comes with an accompanying website.

USDA officials say the pyramid was tired out, overly complex and tried to communicate too many different nutrition facts at once. The new symbol, unveiled Thursday at the department with first lady Michelle Obama in attendance, is simple and gives diners an idea of what should be on their plates when they sit down at the dinner table.

"When a mom and dad comes home from a long day of work, we're already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew. So it's tough to be a nutritionist too," Obama said. "But we do have time to take a look at our kids' plates. As long as they're half full of fruits and vegetables and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we're golden. That's how easy it is."

The department is planning to use social media as one way of grabbing attention, posting advice every day on Twitter, for example. The accompanying website, choosemyplate.gov, will be written on the chart. It will eventually feature interactive tools that help people manage their weight and track exercise.

Robert Post, a USDA official who spent two years developing the plate and the website, said the new chart is designed to be "more artistic and attractive" and to serve as a visual cue for diners.

"It's grabbing the consumers' attention that we are after this time, not making it so complicated that perhaps it is a turnoff," said Post, with the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. "There is something really inviting about this familiar setting for meal time."

Gone are any references to sugars, fats or oils, and what was once a category called "meat and beans" is now simply "proteins." Next to the plate is a blue circle for dairy, which could be a glass of milk or a food such as cheese or yogurt.

Even though the plate is divided into four sections, the servings aren't supposed to be proportional. Every person has different nutritional needs, based on age, health and other factors. The symbol, based on a new set of dietary guidelines released in January, is a general guideline.

The dietary guidelines that provide the foundation for the symbol are released every five years. In addition to telling people to drastically reduce salt and continue limiting saturated fats, the most recent set of guidelines asked diners to enjoy food but balance calories by eating less and taking smaller portions. It also suggested making half of your plate fruits and vegetables, a message easily translated on the dinner plate.

"Our approach here is to make it very simple," says USDA's Post. "One icon cannot deliver everything a consumer needs to know."

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  • zProt Jun 6, 2011

    The food plate is just a different variation of what the government has been doing for years -- encouraging people to eat food groups according to that groups' respective lobby bribes.

  • Jun 3, 2011

    It looks ridiculous. You cannot tell quantities by looking at this and it is confusion for people not versed in nutrition. The first rule of education is to KISS (keep it simple stupid). Fruits and vegetables are confusing. The real old seven category was the easiest to follow. Now if something is suppose to be a balanced plate why did you stick the dairy out in left field as to say it doesn't belong on my plate? Get real, more of my tax dollars down the drain for pretending to know something they don't. Government, give our money back and we can eat will.

  • NC Reader Jun 3, 2011

    The food plate is just a different variation of what the government has been doing for years -- encouraging people to eat a healthy diet. When I was growing up, it was the four food groups -- meat, milk, fruit and vegetable, bread and cereal. In school, we memorized the groups and how many foods people should eat daily from each one. The food pyramid came out later, and there was something in between, although I can't remember what it was. This is just a new way to show food groups -- nothing different from what has gone on for at least the last 40 years. I think it's the best -- very visual and simple.

    The increases in obesity and health problems such as diabetes show that many people aren't "getting it" when it comes to diet. People with health insurance are paying a lot of money to cover health care costs for people with unhealthy lifestyles. I'm all for more education, although some people aren't going to change no matter what.

  • fl2nc2ca2md2nc Jun 3, 2011

    Spirit Warrior Woman - "Otherwise, it's just a gimmick some are being tricked by."

    Sadly, this is how commercialized the "organic food" industry has become in order to cater to the larger farms/corporations. Also, some smaller farms have actually dropped the organic label because they can't maintain the USDA red tape even though they may grow a more pristine product than the larger farms! Crazy...

    The best way to eat organic is to grow your own at this point. It's much cheaper too, once you get the hang of it. :^)

  • Boot-the-DC-Tyrant Jun 2, 2011

    Can I get a Big Mac Value Meal SUPER SIZED please?! And an apple pie!

    Gov't aint telling me what to eat!

  • mikeyj Jun 2, 2011

    More "dumbing down"! So upcoming generations do not even need a basis high school health class to understand how not to "over indulge". Better this way so NC can say, "Yeah, we have a lottery to help education". The powers to be get the warm fuzzy while handing pink slips out to way to many teachers and such. I stop before it go to a full fledged rant. Night.

  • prn13norm Jun 2, 2011

    More unnecessary government intervention!

  • THE ETERNAL Jun 2, 2011

    I love and do eat grass fed beef. I have a pretty good idea that it is truly grass fed,I go to the farm and pick it up myself. I also go to the farm to get free range eggs.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jun 2, 2011

    fl2nc - "...hope you are eating grass-fed beef because anything else is not organic anymore due to the c rap they are feeding the cows in the feed lots."

    Saw a report on tv the other day that said organic products are no healthier for people than non-organic is, including meats, because there's no proof the supplements given to animals pose hazards to humans, and many fruits and vegies that say they are organic have been found to have pesticides on or in them.

    Was interesting!

    The scientist they were interviewing said because of that organic isn't worth the extra money - unless the one buying it can actually do tests on each morsel of it themselves to determine its chemical makeup before eating it.

    Otherwise, it's just a gimmick some are being tricked by.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jun 2, 2011

    Makes sense, except the fruit and vegetables should be equal if Federal guidelines are to be believed.

    I don't like that they don't have the number and size of the servings on it. To some, the protein section might mean a 4 ounce steak, to others a 16 ounce steak.

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