U.S. Government Simplifies the Way We View Nutrition

June 16th, 2011


Category: Policy

My-Plate-IconAmid rapidly rising rates of obesity and childhood diabetes, the USDA together with First Lady Michelle Obama recently debuted a simplified visual guide to help Americans make better food choices. Gone is the well-known food pyramid, and in its place is the new MyPlate icon, a colorful image of a dinner plate divided into four food groups—fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains—with a small serving of dairy on the side.

Officials explained that the pyramid, which was revamped in 2005 but had been used in schools and for general public health awareness since 1992, was too complex and tried to communicate too many nutritional facts all at once. The new simplified “visual cue” aims to remind Americans what a healthy meal should look like, with portion sizes visually represented on a plate, prompting consumers to make healthier eating decisions.

Nutritionists say that from a practical point of view, the plate image will help people make better food choices. “We eat on plates, not pyramids,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietitian in New York City and a nutrition blogger for food.usatoday.com. “This is a graphic that everyone can relate to and visualize.” Although many people recognize the pyramid image, “not many people really knew what it meant,” she says.

The MyPlate icon is based on a new set of dietary guidelines released by the USDA in January. These new guidelines recommend that consumers reduce their consumption of sugar, fats and salts, while increasing intake of fruits and vegetables. They also suggest replacing sugary drinks with water and balancing calories by reducing overall portion sizes.

“Parents don’t have the time to measure out exactly three ounces of chicken or to look up how much rice or broccoli is in a serving,” said the First Lady, a vocal leader in the fight against childhood obesity. “But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. And as long as they’re eating proper portions, and as long as half of their meal is fruits and vegetables alongside their lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, then we’re good. It’s as simple as that.”

The MyPlate symbol will be used for nutritional education purposes in the United States and will be displayed on food packaging to remind Americans how to balance their diets and make healthier lifestyle choices.

For more information about the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines, visit their website or follow them on Twitter.


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