Farewell Food Pyramid!
American families are extremely busy. The food guide pyramid, more recently named MyPyramid, has been used to educate families how to eat healthily day in and day. While successful examples are surely abound, overall this icon has been found to be too complex and cumbersome for the average consumer. Therefore, First Lady, Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, have followed in the example of many other health organizations and countries worldwide by transforming the pyramid into a simple visual icon known as "MyPlate". This new icon officially replaced MyPyramid on June 2, 2011 as the government's primary food group symbol.
We have long been told that a healthy lifestyle is largely the result of the foods we choose to place on our plate and the amount of exercise we choose to incorporate into each day. With this in mind, the USDA has offered the basic guidance to “Choose a healthier plate and balance it with exercise” using MyPlate. MyPlate represents all of the food groups we need to incorporate into our daily lives, broken down into a simple visual tool that we are all quite familiar with – the dinner plate. The goal of this plate is to offer you a quick check-list as you sit down to your meal.
The checklist will consist of 5 steps as the plate is divided into four colored sections, for fruits, vegetables, grains and protein. Just next to the plate you will notice a smaller circle signifying the dairy group, perhaps a small serving of milk or yogurt. In addition to the visual advice, the main points offered by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines have also been tied into this new tool. If you recall, the Dietary Guidelines encourages us to balance our calories, eat more healthy choices, while limiting more of the not-so-healthy options:
- Enjoy your food, but eat less.
- Avoid oversized portions
Foods to Increase
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
- Make half your grains whole grains
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
Foods to Reduce
- Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals - and choose the foods with lower numbers.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Personally I have used similar plates as educational tools in my own work as a nutrition educator, in particular the Power Plate created by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (http://www.pcrm.org/health/powerplate/ ). The plate version seems much easier to incorporate into your daily eating pattern as all you will need to do is picture the 4 categories on your plate as you plan your meal. The pyramid certainly has positive aspects and I am grateful the USDA will continue offer their MyPyramid tools online, just in case I need them J
I encourage you to visit the newly launched website www.Choosemyplate.gov. It is equipped with tools to help you balance your calories and choose more of the right foods. Once you reach the home page of this new site, click directly on the new icon to be taken inside MyPlate to learn more about the best choices within each section as you build your own plate at mealtime.
I am very happy with this new resource for health education.