Wednesday, June 29, 2011

USDA MyPlate

Jennifer Koslo PhD, RD, CSSD,CPT
FT Faculty School of Health Sciences

In case you missed the headlines, on June 2nd the USDA unveiled its new food icon designed to provide guidance to Americans on how to plan a healthy diet. The new icon is a plate, called MyPlate, and it replaces the MyPyramid icon. I love it since I already use a “portion plate” when I counsel people on diet. A plate is something people can relate to much more than an abstract pyramid.  Just a bit of background, the Dietary Guidelines and the accompanying food icon are revised every 5 years as mandated by Congress. It is interesting to see how the icon has changed over the years and if you are interested in looking at the different versions, the USDA site has a brief history on its website

I am actually pleasantly surprised at the new icon and the fairly equal prominence given to each food group. It is no secret that food lobbyists and politics have had a significant impact on how our dietary guidelines and food icons have been designed. Yet MyPlate truly seems to have the health of Americans at heart. The tool is easy to understand and encourages people to fill half of their plates with fruits and vegetables and to be moderate with grain and protein consumption. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that in 2009 only 32% of the population were eating 2 fruits per day and a mere 26% were eating 3 vegetables. Add to that the fact that fruit juice was counted as a fruit and that two of those vegetables were French fries and ketchup and it is no wonder the obesity epidemic continues to worsen. 

That brings us back to using MyPlate. Theoretically if a person follows MyPlate at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they could easily eat 6 servings of fruits and vegetables. The USDA website has some great information and tips on how to build a healthy plate sample menus and recipes. I think some other really important things for Americans to keep in mind is that the grains should be mostly whole grain (whole wheat pasta, brown rice, etc), the protein lean (chicken breast, tofu, beans), and the dairy low-fat. Oh did you pick up on the fact that it says “protein” and not “meat”? Bet the meat industry and lobbyists weren’t too happy about that. 

All in all I think this is a step in the right direction for providing easy to use guidance to Americans on how to put together a balanced, healthy meal. The trick will be trading out those 15 inch plates for a more reasonable 9 inch plate.


Mark Maule said...

Hi Professor Koslo,

I am with you when it comes to the new design associated with the USDA MyPlate format as it seems to be much more user-friendly for the average consumer wishing to improve their overall nutrition approaches. The previous design could have been deemed a bit overwhelming or unrealistic for many individuals, plausibly causing difficulties with adhering to the recommendations presented.

Hopefully, the portion sizes on the 9" plates will become more prevalent with consumers to promote the best practices.

Thank you,

Mark Maule

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