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From Pyramid to Plate: An Icon’s New Look

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

Go lean with protein.

Make at least half your grains whole grains.

 

For the past decade, Americans have struggled to understand the healthy eating messages contained within the food guide pyramid. The results indicate that the pyramid was not the end-all answer that we were hoping for.

The Healthy Eating Index (a USDA measurement comparing diet quality to federal dietary guidelines), makes it apparent that the 2005 Dietary Guidelines have not been implemented. The previous food pyramid focused on defined amounts of grains, vegetables, fruit, milk, meats and beans to be consumed each day. It advised us to be cognizant of the fats, sugars and salt we consume and to develop a healthy exercise regimen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, within the last 20 years, obesity in our nation has increased to one out of three adults and one out of six children.

The pyramid was seen as vague and irrelevant for many, but the idea of using a plate, being universally identifiable and relatable, will hopefully prove a better guide for the nation. It is far less complicated and emphasizes what everyone should include in their diet: a plate made up of half fruits and vegetables and the other half grains and lean protein. Half of the grains should be whole grains, which provide more nutrients than refined grains. You also need to consume dairy in moderation with a serving of fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt.

The MyPlate icon focuses on positive nutrition, yet most everyone indulges in a special treat from time to time. Helpful guidance can be found on the ChooseMyPlate.gov website on how to responsibly include these foods and beverages in your diet. Good-for-you fats found in nuts and avocados are encouraged for their heart-healthy benefits, but always in moderation. Solid fats, such as butter, shortening and animal fat, should be limited due to their high level of saturated fat and association with heart disease.

As with its MyPyramid predecessor, the MyPlate icon is intended to provide a simple visual guide for developing a healthy eating program. Dietary needs can vary greatly, so consult your healthcare professional to discuss your individual requirements.