Goodbye pyramid, hello MyPlate!

An FCHP health educator’s view of MyPlate
By Pat McHugh, RN

Posted June 27, 2011

My PlateOn June 2, 2011, Michelle Obama made the announcement that the nearly 20-year-old food pyramid was being replaced by a new icon. “MyPlate” visually represents the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) food guidelines for healthy eating – filling a dinner plate with half fruits and vegetables, half grains and protein, and dairy.

I must admit that the plate is an appealing graphic—primarily because it’s easier to “digest.” (heheh) However, I’m not entirely convinced that the graphic alone will inspire healthy eating for all Americans.

Positive changes

I like how the food groups are now represented. Most notably, the fruits and vegetables sections have been broken out into two sections. Hopefully this will encourage people to eat more fruits and veggies. There is also less protein (which most Americans read as “meat”) included in the overall diet plan. Just 5.5 oz. of lean meat is recommended.

I also think that the “fats” section is better defined, now that it’s called “oils.” The new recommendation is for individuals to limit solid fats, like butter and lard. In my opinion, there is too much emphasis on low- or no-fat consumption. Though minimizing fats is essential for health, we do need some essential fat in our diets.

Food for thought

I am a bit concerned about the dairy section. Again, the guide focuses too much on low- or no-fat. It’s actually not the dairy that we need nutritionally as it is the calcium and Vitamin D. There are plenty of other non-dairy sources of calcium and Vitamin D, such as kale, tofu, calcium-fortified orange juice, spinach and beans.

Though MyPlate provides a (loose) guide for portion control, I’m surprised by the lack of information it gives. It’s unfortunate that you cannot simply “read” this guide and get a better idea of what you need to do to be healthy. There’s no reference to what you should or shouldn’t eat or what a “portion” of protein is. Plus, it’s only a two-dimensional representation. (I can just see my son now, with a Leaning Tower of Stuffing on less than a quarter, two-dimensionally, of his Thanksgiving plate!)

True, I wasn’t overly impressed by the old pyramid. I found it difficult to make a connection with food and pyramids, and didn’t like the serving explanations. I did, however, like the pictures of foods and how the 2005 pyramid included the need to exercise to achieve optimum health. I don’t find that happening with the new design.

A starting point

It’s important to remember that this guide is simply that – a guide from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s important to talk to your primary care provider if you have any questions about your health or you want to make changes to your diet.

Whether it’s a new guideline or a new personal habit, sometimes change is hard to swallow and even harder to digest. But positive change is always worth it. You can do it!

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The information written about in this blog is not intended to be medical advice. Please seek care from a medical professional when you have a health concern.