Recently I had a discussion about the shape of the most current food pyramid, and got to thinking about how it has changed over the years. When I went to school and learned about the basic food pyramid it was a pretty straight-forward food guide; a few years later, (ok maybe decades) the food pyramid has gone through some incredible changes. First there was an addition of the “fats” group, then the food pyramid became slivers of foods all mostly shaped into a pyramid, now the food ‘pyramid’ has become a ‘plate’. The USDA has recently replaced the pyramid with a plate, to help balance food intake and make overall healthier choices. This article from the National Counsel on Strength and Fitness explains:
USDA Replaces MyPyramid with “My Plate”
After 19 years, the food guide pyramid, or more familiarly named MyPyramid, has been replaced by the USDA’s new “MyPlate.” The new icon is a plate divided into 4 color-coded sections – red for fruits, orange for grains, green for vegetables, and purple for protein with a separate blue side dish for dairy. The food guide pyramid was “simply too complex to serve as a quick and easy guide for American families,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during the press conference announcement. First Lady Michelle Obama also spoke highly of the MyPlate icon, saying it is “a wonderful, kid-friendly tool. What’s more simple than a plate? I’m confident that families will find this useful. They can start using this today.”
The release of the MyPlate icon represents a change in the nutritional approach of the USDA. The previous versions of the food guide pyramid primarily existed to provide information for those seeking advice on healthy eating behaviors. The MyPlate icon and the upcoming release of interactive, online tools including daily, personalized food plans, a food tracker providing feedback on nutritional intake and physical activity, and a food planner to help individuals reach their personal goals, is more focused on changing the American eating behaviors and lifestyle habits. Keeping in mind that nutrition is only one part of a bigger picture for healthy living, everyone is reminded that physical activity promotion, such as is promoted through the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” program, is integral to America’s long-term health and well-being.
Kathleen Zelman, RD, WebMDs nutrition director had this to say, “We now have an easy-to-understand layout of what constitutes a healthy meal. Whether you are grocery shopping, packing lunches, or assembling a meal on a plate, the new food plate icon will serve as a constant reminder of the essential ingredients for a nutritious meal – five easy pieces.” Based upon the recommendations for the new plate icon, half of each meal should come from fruits and vegetables, while protein comprises the smallest portion. In addition to the recommended portion of each nutritional group, the MyPlate release also comes with some generalized nutritional advice: balance calories by enjoying food and eating less (avoiding oversized portions); eating more good food choices (1/2 plate of fruits and vegetables and switch to low-fat or non-fat dairy); and eat less bad food choices (lower sodium soups and frozen meals and water in place of sugary drinks).
For those fans of MyPyramid, the USDA plans to keep it, as well as the interactive tools many have come to know, up and running. It is important to remember that these resources are provided by the USDA for FREE. There is no cost associated with using the online tools, interactive website, food recipes, etc. Be sure to share this information with your friends, family, colleagues, and clients. Through the continued dissemination of important healthy nutritional information, the American eating and lifestyle behaviors can be positively impacted.
Want to check out this new My Plate system? Visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov to learn more.