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bama girl 06-02-2011 12:20 PM

USDA Food Pyramid Replaced Again

(CNN) -- The food pyramid has been dismantled in favor of a simple plate icon that urges Americans to eat a more plant-based diet.
One half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, with whole grains and lean protein on the other half, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Low-fat dairy on the side, such as a cup of skim milk or yogurt, is also suggested.

The new icon, MyPlate is designed to remind Americans to adopt healthier eating habits, in a time when more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese.
"It's an opportunity for Americans to understand quickly how to have a balanced and nutritious meal," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "It's a constant reminder as you look at your own plate whether your portion sizes are right, whether you've got enough fruits and vegetables on that plate."
Vilsack, first lady Michelle Obama and Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin spoke at a Thursday press conference to unveil the new plate icon.
Obama has led a national campaign for healthier diets and more physical exercise, called Let's Move, which aims to reduce childhood obesity in the United States within a generation.

The goal of MyPlate is to simplify nutritional information, Obama said.

The actual article is about 3 or 4 times as long as the quote and includes a picture of the new guideline. It's kind of interesting to see the number of changes the USDA has made with regards to recommendations for food consumption since I've been alive-- I think there have been 3 since 1992, when I was two years old.

What do you guys think? Is this more helpful to the average American, or do you think the iconic food pyramid still wins out?

bitetoobreakkskin 06-02-2011 12:27 PM

i like the new one better..it puts more emphasis on the fruits/veggies. on the pyramid im used to whole grains had the biggest emphasis.

bama girl 06-02-2011 12:54 PM

I have to agree that I like the new one as well. Honestly, growing up, the food pyramid didn't mean much to me, because I feel it was confusing for school-aged children to navigate. I think unclear guidelines for ourselves and our parents is at least a small part of what has shaped the eating habits of my generation (I think I'm at the tail end of Generation Y). Also, the 1992 food pyramid that I grew up with didn't differentiate between whole grains and refined stuff. The vast majority of people do NOT need to eat 6-11 servings of straight-up refined carbs.

I think it's great also that there looks to be a new emphasis on what exactly a serving is. That was never made clear to me as a child, or really up until a couple of years ago when I entered adulthood. You can eat as healthily as you want, but if you eat too much, it's still not good.

jessica2231 06-02-2011 01:41 PM

i like the new one! so simple!

there are so many confusing articles and books and all this information out there. They all say do this and do that. oh wait dont do that. And its like CAN I JUST GET SOMETHING STRAIGHT FORWARD AND SIMPLE?

Well thank you Michelle Obama! : )

astrophe 06-02-2011 02:26 PM

This reminds me of the 4 food groups in the 70/80's when I was in elementary school.

Plate method -- it's certainly easier but not new or revolutionary. That's been a technique in diabetic lit I've read. Marion Nestle's blog posts others.

I'm not sure about milk even being on there. All adults have weaned. Why bother with the breastmilk of other animals? At best it it an optional food, like desserts and candies. Fun, tastes good, but not crucial.

Would prefer "starch" rather than "grain" because some veg are quite starchy.

Good that it is "protein" and not just meat.

But think on who it is by. USDA -- US Dept of Agriculture.

It's too weird to me that the USDA is the one that kicks out nutrition for the general welfare when it exists to promote agriculture.

From wikipedia the USDA...

"... aims to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, promote agricultural trade and production, work to assure food safety, protect natural resources, foster rural communities and end hunger in the United States and abroad."

Bit of a conflict of interest, no? To meet the needs of the farmers and ranchers (who sell stuff to eat) and then be making recomendations to the general populace (who buy stuff to eat.)

And nowhere in there does it say optimal nutrition... there are powerful food lobbies. And we are a nation of overfed and undernourished.

Overall, I suppose plate method helps people visualize better than pyramid though I think it could use some clarifying on portion sizes and optional and optimal foods on the accompanying lit.

I guess only time will tell if the general US population improves health wise.


kaplods 06-02-2011 03:36 PM


Originally Posted by astrophe (Post 3875032)
I'm not sure about milk even being on there. All adults have weaned. Why bother with the breastmilk of other animals? At best it it an optional food, like desserts and candies. Fun, tastes good, but not crucial.

I think if we take milk out, we have to add a calcium food group in. While mammals, including humans outgrow the need for milk, they don't outgrow the need for calcium, and unless we add back in the bone & insect food group, it can be hard to get enough calcium from vegetable/fruit sources.

Lovely 06-02-2011 11:02 PM

I kinda like the plate image a little better than the pyramids. At least visually.

The pyramid always confused me as a child, because they claimed something like 6-11 servings of grains and breads...but they never said how much a serving was. So as a kid, I couldn't wrap my mind around how I was supposed to compare pasta to rolls and decide which was a serving.

And heaven help me if it was something like a lasagna where there was also meat, cheese and vegetables inside of pasta! How's a kid supposed to figure out values from that! :lol:

Oooh food pyramid memories.

SBD Sass 06-02-2011 11:14 PM

Loving the plate a lot. Blogged about it today after I got the email. The teaching materials are great and with that being said I will be using them. :)

Nola Celeste 06-02-2011 11:36 PM

Love the change. I think it's much more comprehensible and gives a better idea of what balanced nutrition should be. I might just be biased because it's pretty close to what I've been aiming for on my own plate, but I think it's a refreshingly clear and simple way to look at healthy eating.

Esofia 06-03-2011 01:17 PM

I'm not sure that mixing food categories with macronutrients really works, although it's less meat-focused and more open, which I like.

bronzeager 06-06-2011 10:27 AM


Originally Posted by kaplods (Post 3875137)
I think if we take milk out, we have to add a calcium food group in. While mammals, including humans outgrow the need for milk, they don't outgrow the need for calcium, and unless we add back in the bone & insect food group, it can be hard to get enough calcium from vegetable/fruit sources.

I think if I were eight, the notion of the Bug Food Group would be TOTALLY COOL. Actually I think it still is, kinda. One of my favorite articles to show my students about different cultural eating habits is one the New York Times had last year on ants, traditionally eaten in Brazil. It includes a video featuring a farmer eating the very large live ants he had just collected with great enjoyment (you have to bite the heads off first or they bite you back).

It doesn't hurt that he looks and mugs exactly like Michael Palin's long-lost Mayan twin.

Esofia 06-06-2011 02:21 PM

I'm not sure there's any way of simplifying dietary needs this far which would be all that good. Food groups aren't what's essential, and many people live happily and healthily without one or more of them (well, it's harder to be healthy without any veg, but certainly possible without animal products, or without grains). Nutrients are what we need, and you can't present them as interchangeable with certain food groups. Quite apart from anything else, this is why people don't realise how many varied sources there are of many nutrients, say because they've been raised to believe that only dairy provides calcium. And because each food will contain several different nutrients, the simplification is again wrong. Replacing "meat" with "protein" does indicate that there are other sources of protein, but having "grains" as a separate category will make people thing that grains aren't a source of protein, when in fact they're an excellent source.

kaplods 06-06-2011 03:39 PM

I don't think the food groups "make" anyone believe anything. I use them, and understand the advantages (convenience) and the limitations (many foods don't fit neatly into one category, and some fit into several).

The problem isn't using food groups, it's not providing enough information for people to understand how to use the food groups as a tool.

Again (because I say this so often) it's a problem of oversimplification for convenience. We (as a culture) don't want to teach or learn a lot about nutrition. If you're not going to learn about the individual properties of a million single foods, "grouping" them is convenient and even helpful, but if you don't know the strengths and weaknesses of the grouping system, you can't use it appropriately.

The problem is we don't just simplify, we oversimplify to the point that much of the usefulness of the simplification is lost. And when you oversimplify, superstition also creeps in, because we tend to "fill in the blanks" with guesses and assumptions. People can easily confuse suggestions and guidelines with requirements and mandates.

I love exchange plan diets, because they're easy and provide built-in balance. I don't have to do the relatively simple (no trigonometry or calculus involved), but tedious math of looking at each in food's nutrients individually (I know there are online tools to do the math for me, but until I have an ipad or similar computer to take with me everywhere, I prefer using an easy sistem I can use anywhere).

I know that there's overlap and gaps within the exchanges, but the system is a useful way for me to program in variety and balance without doing more work (math, blegh).

I tend to go on food jags, so organizing foods into groups (exchanges use veggie, fruit, fat, protein, starch, and dairy) is convenient and useful.

When WW was an exchange plan, any food that contained at least 20% RDA of calcium could satisfy your dairy requirement (and if it contained more than 90 calories, you had to figure out which other food group exchanges were also satisfied). I wasn't a fan of milk, so I went out of my way looking for for those foods.

Not many people would think to count sardines as dairy, but I do (of course you have to eat the bones for it to count towards dairy). Because sardines also contain protein and fat, I have use the nutrition label to determine how many of each (dairy, protien, fat), so some math is unavoidable.

I also don't like that the FDA guidelines assume (and for the most part always have) that everyone needs the same nutrition - everyone's plate should look the same.

They don't specify the size of the plate, or how many meals ot have, so there's room for caloric differences, but that's it. No acknowledgement that some folks may need more protein, or less, more carbohydrates or less, more fat or less...

The one-size-fits-all approach is still assumed, and I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all approach, even when it comes to macronutrient percentages.

But as a science, nutrition lags behind the other sciences. Mostly (I beleive) because there's little profit in it. You can't turn it into a drug, and people generally don't want to pay for it (most people don't seek the help of a dietitian because insurance doesn't generally cover it).

Most doctors don't even get any training in nutrition or diet therapy. How can we say with a straight face "consult your doctor before beginning any program of diet or exercise," when doctors don't get any training on the subject. You might as well say "consult your mechanic."

iaradajnos 06-06-2011 04:11 PM

I agree with the new format. I also appreciate so many other thoughtful and very informed comments from others. I'd quote them all but really I thought there are so many.

When I first was trying to get my info together for weight loss, I found Richard Simmon's hand held window clicking devise. It was so helpful as it talked about food groups, appropriate portions, and clicking the window shut on the icon when you ate/drank it. It was so helpful. The exchanges were helpful too but I didn't find it on all the different things I was eating. I ended up taking the food group from RS and adding to Barbara Roll's Volumetrics.

I totally agree about USDA not being appropriate regarding nutrition. The Health Department makes more sense.

I do appreciate alternative to "meat" (as a vegetarian meal lover) and wish there was a cuter word for calcium as I use lots of alternative items for this such as tofu, almond milk, etc.

The simplicity of it all, as said above, is pushing out the brain and that's the wrong direction. Simplicity is for "at a glance" but doesn't replace "thinking".

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