The Dish on the New MyPlate

by in Diets & Weight Loss, Food News, June 3, 2011
MyPlate
The new MyPlate guide. Image courtesy ChooseMyPlate.gov.

In recent years, many have criticized the Food Guide Pyramid. Among the complaints: The guide is too confusing and doesn’t help Americans make better choices. On June 2nd, the USDA released its new shape for healthy eating, and it’s out with the pyramid and in with the plate. Take a peek at the new MyPlate design and get our take on what’s improved and what’s missing.

The Old Pyramid
Consumers and professionals alike were perplexed by the USDA’s 2005 version of MyPyramid. Although my 6-year-old daughter could tell me that yellow means fat and blue means milk, she couldn’t comprehend the idea of portion control. My daughter wasn’t alone — many of my adult clients, students and even friends weren’t so sure what the recommendations actually were.

The New Plate
MyPlate replaced MyPyramid as a way to realistically show folks how to eat. It’s colorful, simple to understand and relatable (we eat on plates not pyramids!). The new guidelines recommend filling half the plate with fruits and veggies, 1/4 with grains and 1/4 with protein. A cup of milk on the side reminds folks to drink low-fat or nonfat milk or have a cup of yogurt each day.

One thing that isn’t addressed here is exercise, though Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign does heavily promote, well, moving more. The new eating model also doesn’t mention fats or sweets, which is surprising since many folks (including myself) love desserts and the occasional fatty indulgence.

New Messages
Along with the new design, the USDA offered 7 eat-better messages based on studies and observations of the American diet. These may seem simple to follow, but breaking bad habits are tougher than most people think.

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
  • Make half your plate fruits and veggies.
  • Make at least half your grains whole.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk
  • Compare sodium in foods and choose those with the lowest numbers.
  • Choose water over sugary drinks.

Bottom Line: MyPlate offers an easy-to-understand message for all ages. However, it’s easier said than done. Studies show that small improvements in your diet are more likely to last. To really make things stick, try one or two dietary goals at a time. Once you’ve mastered them, make new goals. Over time, good habits and better health will prevail.

TELL US: What do you think of the new MyPlate? Tell us in the comments or take our poll at FN Dish.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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