My Plate Replaces Food Pyramid to Help Consumers Eat Better

Reading time: 5 – 8 minutes

Last month, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled the federal government’s new food icon, MyPlate. MyPlate is a new generation icon with the intent to prompt consumers to think about building a healthy plate at meal times. The new icon will replace the MyPyramid image as the government’s primary food group symbol as an easy-to-understand visual cue to help consumers adopt healthy eating habits consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans [1].

Choose My Plate

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focuses on balancing calories with physical activity, and encouraging Americans to consume more healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains.

Secretary Vilsack said [2]:

With so many food options available to consumers, it is often difficult to determine the best foods to put on our plates when building a healthy meal. MyPlate is an uncomplicated symbol to help remind people to think about their food choices in order to lead healthier lifestyles. This effort is about more than just giving information, it is a matter of making people understand there are options and practical ways to apply them to their daily lives.

The MyPlate icon emphasizes the fruit, vegetable, grains, protein and dairy food groups; the pie-shaped sections are larger for vegetables and grains, and smaller for fruits and proteins. To help consumers build healthier diets, the campaign website ChooseMyPlate.gov provides resources and tools for dietary assessment, nutrition education, and other user-friendly nutrition information.

Obesity increases a person’s chance of developing a number of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers. To combat the U.S. obesity epidemic, the ChooseMyPlate.gov resources and tools empower people to make healthier food choices for themselves, their families and their children.

First Lady Michelle Obama said [2]:

This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating and as a mom, I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country. When mom or 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. 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.

Since 1992, American consumers have been following the food guide pyramid. The pyramid was divided into six sections: basic foods were at the base and included bread, cereal, rice and pasta. Two middle sections consisted of vegetables and fruit; two top sections consisted of milk, yogurt and cheese, and meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts. In an effort to simplify the design and promote physical activity, the food pyramid was updated in 2005 to MyPyramid. However, many people found it complicated (MyPyramid has 12 sets of possible recommendations) and confusing (food group pictures were replaced by colored vertical bands that represent different food groups).

MyPlate updates and simplifies the food guide, ending 19 years of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid diagrams. The MyPlate icon is a visual cue to make half your plate fruits and vegetables. In addition, ChooseMyPlate.gov offers the Ten Tips Nutrition Education Series, which provides consumers and professionals with high quality, easy-to-follow tips in a convenient, printable format (perfect for posting around the house or work). There you will find a wealth of suggestions (in sets of 10) that can help you get started toward a healthy diet, including:

  • Choose MyPlate: 10 tips to a great plate
  • Add more vegetables to your day: 10 tips to help you eat more vegetables
  • Focus on fruits: 10 tips to help you eat more fruits
  • Make half your grains whole: 10 tips to help you eat whole grains
  • Got your dairy today? 10 tips to help you eat and drink more fat-free or low-fat dairy foods
  • With protein foods, variety is key: 10 tips for choosing protein
  • Build a healthy meal: 10 tips for healthy meals
  • Healthy eating for vegetarians: 10 tips for vegetarians
  • Smart shopping for veggies and fruits: 10 tips for affordable vegetables and fruits
  • Liven up your meals with vegetables and fruits: 10 tips to improve your meals with vegetables and fruits
  • Kid-friendly veggies and fruits: 10 tips for making healthy foods more fun for children
  • Be a healthy role model for children: 10 tips for setting good examples
  • Cut back on your kid’s sweet treats: 10 tips to decrease added sugars
  • Salt and sodium: 10 tips to help you cut back

Later this year, the USDA will unveil an exciting “go-to” online tool that consumers can use to personalize and manage their dietary and physical activity choices. Over the next several years, USDA will work with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’sMove! initiative and public and private partners to promote MyPlate and ChooseMyPlate.gov as well as the supporting nutrition messages and “how-to” resources.

References

  1. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. United States Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. 2011 Jan 31.
  2. First Lady, Agriculture Secretary Launch MyPlate Icon as a New Reminder to Help Consumers to Make Healthier Food Choices. United States Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. 2011 June 2.
About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.