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MyPlate: The New Food Pyramid

The confusing old pyramid is gone!

Have you seen the cute new Food Pyramid, called MyPlate?  The brightly colored circular plate came out last week and is meant to give consumers a fast, easy to  grasp reminder of the basics of a healthy diet. It consists of four sections, one each for fruits, vegetables, grains and protein. Beside the plate is a smaller circle for dairy, suggesting a glass of low-fat milk or perhaps a yogurt cup. Gone is any reference to fats, alcohol, oils or sweets. 

The old pyramid was instantly recognized by millions of American school kids, parents and consumers, but was disdained by nutritionists as too confusing and flawed because it did not distinguish clearly between healthy foods like whole grains and fish and less healthy choices like white bread and bacon.

First Lady Michelle Obama said, “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.”

The food pyramid has a long and tangled history. Its original version, released in 1992 showed a hierarchy of foods, with those that made up the largest portions of a recommended diet, like grains, fruit and vegetables, closest to the wide base. Foods that were to be eaten in smaller quantities, like dairy and meat, were closer to the pyramid’s tapering top. A revised pyramid was released in 2005. It was called MyPyramid, and turned the old pyramid on its side, with vertical brightly colored strips standing in for the different food groups. It also showed a stick figure running up the side to emphasize the need for exercise.  This new pyramid was widely seen as hard to understand.

MyPlate is an icon for the 21st century, intended to get consumers to think about building a healthy plate at meal times. Vegetables and fruits take one half of the plate, with veggies in the largest portion. Grains and proteins share the other side, as the dairy portion sits off to the side.  If you are interested, much more information about MyPlate and nutrition can be found at  www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.

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