MyPlate (instead of food pyramid) is real improvement

For nearly 20 years the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid has cast its shadow over America. Its goal was to influence everything from what farmers grow, to how manufacturers make products and even what Americans choose to buy and eat. Today, however, there's a new icon in town — and it's called MyPlate.

Plain and simple, the new plate icon shows what types of foods should comprise your main meals — one-half vegetables and fruit, one-fourth grains and one-fourth protein, with a little low-fat dairy on the side. A plate is easy to relate to. You see it and think, "Hey I can dish up servings like that." The old pyramid was quite abstract, and many people found it hard to transfer the concept to the table.

The website offers additional information, including details about the food groups, healthy eating tips, weight loss information, and tools to analyze your diet and create a personalized eating plan. All of this is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

MyPlate also features a few key messages:

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals — choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Missing from MyPlate, however, is any symbol for physical activity. I can understand the desire to keep the icon simple, but this is an important concept. I'll be interested in learning why this was left off — especially since being active is key to fighting the obesity epidemic. The MyPlate website does at least link to, a site supported by a consortium of government agencies and dedicated to helping kids and families get more active.

On balance, I'm glad to see the new icon. It very much supports what the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid has promoted for more than a decade — an emphasis on vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and small amounts of lean protein and low-fat dairy. The Mayo Clinic pyramid also includes physical activity — and will continue to do so — as an essential part of maintaining a healthy weight and staying healthy.

Step up to MyPlate, the new food icon By Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D. of, found here.

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