Just like the pyramids found in Egypt, the Food Pyramid is now history.
Last week, the USDA introduced the newest health food guide: The Food Plate. This new guide to nutrition will replace the Food Pyramid as the United States’ main guide to healthy eating. The plate displays what a typical dinner plate should look like and how much of the surface area should be taken up by each type of food: grains, vegetables, fruit, protein, and dairy.The website for the Food Plate, ChooseMyPlate.gov, encourages people not only to eat healthier, but it offers easy substitution options and encourages people to have portion control.
The old Food Pyramid site included tips such as:
- Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
- Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
- Keep levels of saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars low
- Make smart choices from every food group.
- Find balance between food and physical activity.
- Get the most nutrition out of calories.
- Stay within daily calorie needs.
The Choose My Plate website has updated its tips and advice. The new tips displayed on the Food Plate home page are easier to understand and include:
- Enjoy your food, but eat less
- Avoid oversize portions
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
- Make at least half your grains whole grains
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
- Choose foods with lower sodium
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks
Every day, the website has a new “tip of the day.” Today’s tip of the day is: Select fruits with more potassium often, such as bananas, prunes and prune juice, dried peaches and apricots, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and orange juice.
Kathleen Zelman, RD, WebMD’s Director of Nutrition, says that the main point of the Food Plate is to show people that eating nutritional food and staying healthy is not as hard as it may seem. According to KSBY, the Food Pyramid replacement is part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative – a program that encourages people of all ages to eat healthy and get active. Obama explains, “As long as (the plates are) half full of fruits and vegetables and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden.” Obama says that the food plate is easier to understand and makes more sense than even the most recent, 2010 Food Pyramid.
Here is the full guide to the Food Pyramid.
Some health professionals, however, disagree with Obama’s statement about fruits and vegetables. “Like the last pyramid icon, it is promoting an inedible dry diet, devoid of healthy animal fats and much needed salt,” explains Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. “Eating lots of fruits and vegetables will not compensate for the critical nutrients in foods like butter, egg yolks, whole milk, cheese, organ meats, and seafood.”
Although many people believe that the new Food Plate will help parents keep their kids healthy, many other people believe that the new food plate was a waste of money and that the real change needs to be in people’s attitude about health – not in the way the information is presented to them. Some of the main arguments against the Food Pyramid were not addressed with the new Food Plate. One of those issues is that the Food Pyramid and Food Plate each only address the food side of health, and that there are many aspects about eating healthy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that are not addressed – especially exercise.
The Food Plate (as well as the Food Pyramid) before it was aimed at children and parents in order to make sure that families were eating well. The problem that arises with that, however, is that once people get past fourth grade, chances are they will never look at the food pyramid again. As we get older, we develop bad health habits and those habits are very hard to break. Self motivation and encouragement from those around us, not government supported initiatives, is what is going to get people to change the way they exercise, eat, and live healthily.
Although the Food Plate might not be perfect, it has come a long way from the Food Pyramid – even if just making the information more visually appealing. The visual representation might not tell you to exercise or how to use portion control, but the website definitely advocates for those types of lifestyle changes. It also includes health links for specific demographics such as pregnant women, small children, general population, weight loss, etc.
In any case, despite arguments for or against it, the Food Pyramid is now a thing of the past. If nothing else, the website name “Choose My Plate” now makes more sense than the old one: “My Pyramid.”
Want to hear a more comedic view on the new Food Plate? Check out The Onion. How about some insight into the graphic design behind the plate? Visit The Atlantic for some insight on the colors and overall design of the plate.