Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Harvard Steps Up to the Healthy Eating Plate

Just a few short months after the U.S.Department of Agriculture unveiled its new food guide MyPlate, nutrition experts at Harvard’s School of Public Health and Harvard Health Publications released their own guide, Healthy Eating Plate.

  

HealthyPlate2.jpg

While MyPlate shows the relative portions of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy a person should eat, it says nothing about the quality of those foods.  Experts agree that MyPlate is a significant improvement from the Food Guide Pyramid, introduced in 1992, but the Harvard nutrition experts say it still does not provide enough of the guidance consumers need.  They think the Healthy Eating Plate, on the other hand, focuses on the types and quality of food consumers should choose to ensure a healthy diet because, as many people know, quality matters.

The central message of the Healthy Eating Plate is to get plenty of produce, choose whole grains, choose healthy sources of protein, use healthy oils, and drink water or other beverages that don’t contain sugar.

Harvard Health Publications points out that, “a hamburger or hot dog on a white bread bun with French fries and a milk shake could be part of a MyPlate meal – even though high red and processed meat intakes increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer, and high intakes of refined grains and potatoes make it hard to control weight.”

my-plate-gov-492.jpg

Unlike MyPlate, the vegetable portion of the Healthy Eating Plate is at the top of the plate and increased in size to show that a variety of vegetables should make up a significant portion of the meal.  On the Healthy Eating Plate, potatoes and French fries don’t count as vegetables (likely neither does ketchup – sorry, President Reagan).  The Healthy Eating Plate also contains two additional recommendations that MyPlate does not: use healthy oils in cooking and at the table instead of butter and trans fats, and a reminder to stay active.

P.J. Skerrett, editor of Harvard Heart Letter, summed up the recommendations of the Healthy Eating Plate:

– Make half your meal vegetables and fruits.  Go for variety.  And keep in mind that potatoes and French fries don’t count.

– Choose whole grains whenever you can.  Limit refined grains, like white rice and white bread, because the body rapidly turns them into blood sugar.

– Pick the healthiest sources of protein, such as fish, poultry, beans, and nuts; cut back on red meat; avoid bacon, cold cuts, and other processed meats.

– Healthy oils (like olive and canola oil) are good for you.  Don’t be afraid to use them for cooking, on salad, and at the table.

– Drink water, tea, or coffee.  Milk and dairy are not must-have foods – limit them to 1-2 servings/day.  Go easy on juice.  Avoid sugary drinks.

– And stay active!

The Healthy Eating Plate offers a more complete, yet still simple, picture to guide consumers through the sometimes-overwhelming process of choosing healthy foods for their families.  Dr. Anthony Komaroff, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Editor in Chief of Harvard Health Publications says, “We gave MyPlate a makeover to provide consumers with an easy to use but specific guide to healthy eating based on the best science available.”  

The Healthy Eating Plate has a lot going in its favor: simple graphic; simple and clear suggestions for making food choices; a reminder to stay active.  And as if that wasn’t enough, the folks at Harvard can boast that “the Healthy Eating Plate is based on nutritional science and is not influenced even a smidgeon by commercial pressure.”  Given the strength of the food industry, agricultural interests, and other political players, that is definitely something to brag about.

Alli Condra is pursuing her LL.M. in Agricultural and Food Law at the University of Arkansas. She was chosen as the 2011-12 recipient of the Marler Clark Graduate Assistantship.

© Food Safety News
  • There are many positive to The Healthy Eating Plate. At least it lists oils too and does not refer to them as something not good.

  • innerathlete

    French fries are not a great choice, so go ahead and single them out, but enough with the potato bashing already (whole potatoes).

  • Teresa Blair

    I am a Registered Dietitian and was wondering what documentation you have that allows you to make this statement
    “Milk and dairy are not must-have foods – limit them to 1-2 servings/day”. This does not correspond with the USDA food guide or the Dietary Guidelines.

  • I am a Registered Dietitian and long-time nutrition instructor. I agree with the above comments. Milk is an important food in the diet — but we need to emphasize fat-free and low fat milk and encourage at least two servings. Potatoes, other than fried, are fine !! OK to talk about healthy fats. Emphasis on vegetables is GREAT

  • mrothschild

    Teresa: I believe the point of Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate is, in part, to challenge the USDA food guide and the Dietary Guidelines. Here are a few other comments from Harvard about milk and dairy (you can find links to the research the Harvard experts cite on the university’s websites) and their opinion about the political influences that shaped the federal nutrition recommendations:
    “MyPlate encourages consumers to make dairy products a regular part of their meals. Yet research has shown little benefit, and considerable potential for harm, of such high dairy intakes. Moderate consumption of milk or other dairy products—one to two servings a day—is fine, and likely has some benefits for children. But it’s not essential for adults, for a host of reasons. That’s why the Healthy Eating Plate recommends limiting milk and dairy products to one to two servings per day, and drinking water with meals instead. (Read more details about the research on calcium, milk, and health on The Nutrition Source.)”
    “…. In addition, MyPlate recommends milk or dairy at every meal, even though there is little evidence that high dairy intake protects against osteoporosis and substantial evidence that consuming a lot of milk and dairy foods can be harmful.Go easy on juice. Avoid sugary drinks.”
    “The federal government has been in the food icon business since 1992, when it unveiled the Food Guide Pyramid. It was built on a shaky foundation, influenced more by the food industry and agriculture interests than by science. MyPlate continues this unhelpful trend. The Healthy Eating Plate is based on nutritional science and is not influenced even a smidgeon by commercial pressure.”

  • Mary Rothschild

    Teresa: I believe the point of Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate is, in part, to challenge the USDA food guide and the Dietary Guidelines. Here are a few other comments from Harvard about milk and dairy (you can find links to the research the Harvard experts cite on the university’s websites) and their opinion about the political influences that shaped the federal nutrition recommendations:
    “MyPlate encourages consumers to make dairy products a regular part of their meals. Yet research has shown little benefit, and considerable potential for harm, of such high dairy intakes. Moderate consumption of milk or other dairy products—one to two servings a day—is fine, and likely has some benefits for children. But it’s not essential for adults, for a host of reasons. That’s why the Healthy Eating Plate recommends limiting milk and dairy products to one to two servings per day, and drinking water with meals instead. (Read more details about the research on calcium, milk, and health on The Nutrition Source.)”
    “…. In addition, MyPlate recommends milk or dairy at every meal, even though there is little evidence that high dairy intake protects against osteoporosis and substantial evidence that consuming a lot of milk and dairy foods can be harmful.Go easy on juice. Avoid sugary drinks.”
    “The federal government has been in the food icon business since 1992, when it unveiled the Food Guide Pyramid. It was built on a shaky foundation, influenced more by the food industry and agriculture interests than by science. MyPlate continues this unhelpful trend. The Healthy Eating Plate is based on nutritional science and is not influenced even a smidgeon by commercial pressure.”

  • Laura Slitt

    What we never hear is that the USDA is being sued for this deceptive new guideline that uses double speak and still promotes the worst habits that got America to our current state of ill mental and physical health.
    Sure, Harvard! If we ate plant based protein and eliminated kidney disease, osteoporosis, nad heart disease, OMG! SO many medical professionals and, “researchers,” out of work. And what would happen to that rising health care GDP????The fastest growing sector of the US economy IS the economy of human disease, ALL PREVENATBLE, ALL because of a sick food system that breeds sick animals, sick slaughterhouses, and sick consequences.
    GO VEGAN! It’s the cure….
    The power plate is a farce.
    The New Four Food Groups!!! Grains, Veggies, Legumes, Fruits.
    http://www.pcrm.org

  • Jennifer

    Milk is not a natural part of the adult human diet, so why do people still believe it is an essential or a must-have? 75% of the world population is lactose intolerant.. why? because animals are not meant to drink milk beyond infancy. There is no evidence that proves dairy consumption combats osteoporosis. I for one, find it strange to drink mammary secretions from another animal.

  • Amanda

    Pat, I think perhaps you need to do some alternative studying…and not what some government mandated curriculum probably told you. I think there are less and less people out there who have any faith in the USDA. And why should we? They don’t exactly have the best track record, for anything! Don’t even get me started on the FDA.
    As for dairy, I’m completely with Jennifer on this one. She’s absolutely right!
    With all of the dairy industry advertising out there, everyone is on some 1950’s mentality that milk is the best thing you can consume, that we all “need” it, and if we don’t consume it we’re setting ourselves up for osteoporosis, dental issues,etc. Not only does a big portion of the world have issues with lactose intolerance, but we (the US) one of the largest consumers in the world of dairy, also have the highest levels of osteoporosis, and do the other countries who are at the top of the list of dairy consumers.
    So please, if you have some logical answer as to how that has come to be, and why dairy is in fact good for us, share that brilliant wisdom here.

  • In complete disagreement to the “registered dieticians” (aka poorly educated) etc…
    Have to admit it is amazing to see “diary” here!
    A food group created by an industry.
    See the “White Lies” report.
    I hope that comes with a recommendation to consume only organic diary to be sure you arn’t getting your daily recommended dose of antibiotics, hormones and pus!