America’s widely recognized food pyramid is being replaced by a simpler, more relevant nutritional symbol: a plate. First Lady Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin unveiled “My Plate,” a graphic intended to give consumers an easy-to-understand guide to healthy eating, at a news conference Thursday.

my plate logo - insidefeatured.jpgThe symbol is divided into four portions, fruits and vegetables take up a little over half the plate, grains and protein roughly split the other half of the plate. The graphic also includes an additional serving of dairy.

“All of us care about our nation’s health. When we act together and when we focus on our common goals… we can find consensus and we can agree on something that makes sense for everyone,” said Mrs. Obama at the unveiling, noting that last year’s White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity report called for “simpler, more actionable messages about nutritional choices.”

“We needed something useful, something simple, that’s why I like the my plate approach,” said Mrs. Obama. “Parents don’t have the time to measure out exactly three ounces of protein. We do have time to look at our kids’ plates … we do it every day.”

The First Lady added that daughters Malia and Sasha have been briefed on the guide. “We are implementing this in our household.”

Mrs. Obama, Secretary Vilsack and Surgeon General Benjamin all emphasized that while the simplified graphic is an “enormous step,” it is by no means a nutritional panacea. The symbol does not improve access to affordable fruits and vegetables, it doesn’t get Americans exercising, it doesn’t help fund training and equipment to help schools provide healthier meals, and it doesn’t ensure a shift in eating habits.

It’s simply about emphasizing healthy choices and proportions, explained Vilsack at the press conference.

“It’s not designed to tell you specifically what to eat, just to tell you the healthy proportions,” said Vilsack. On a personal note, Vilsack said that, while the food pyramid didn’t really resonate with him, the new plate recently helped him choose what to eat at a luncheon. “The steak took up three-quarters of my plate, so I didn’t eat it all.”

“We’re not telling people what to eat, we are giving them a guide,” he added. 

A number of simple, actionable nutrition messages accompany the new graphic:

Balance Calories

Enjoy your food, but eat less.
Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
Make at least half your grains whole grains.

Foods to Reduce

Compare sodium (salt) in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and choose foods with lower numbers.
Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

  • Karen Lloyd

    About time, best move yet!

  • dangermaus

    The 8 recommendations with the new myplate are incredibly uninspiring could be SO MUCH BETTER… The very first statement “enjoy your food” is good, but after that first half-sentence it’s all too specific to draw rules from, yet don’t contain enough information to inspire a feeling a trust. I challenge you to find me a person over the age of 2 that isn’t so sick of hearing about avoiding sugar, salt and fat that the don’t immediately “turn off” when they hear that being preached at again – and that’s what this seems to do.
    Contrast those statements with Michael Pollan’s 7 Rules for Eating (paraphrased):
    1. Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
    2. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
    3. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store – Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store.
    4. Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot.
    5. Always leave the table a little hungry.
    6. Enjoy meals with the people you love.
    7. Don’t buy food where you buy your gasoline.
    Granted, these statements are a bit absolutist (a lot of them start with “Don’t eat anything that…” rather than “Try to avoid foods that…”) but that’d be easy to re-work without really losing the force those words carry.
    Of course, the FDA/USDA wouldn’t ever release something like that. They’re crippled by the various prepared food mega-giants (the ones that are actually feeding us all that ready-to-eat salt, fat and sugar that’s making us diabetic, obese and allergic to the world). Politicians know that they would immediately start funding the opponents of any legislator or executive that had supported a radical change to the current food paradigm.

  • dangermaus

    Or even his much shorter quote…
    “Eat FOOD. Not too much. Mostly vegetables.”

  • Doc Mudd

    Journalism professor Pollan’s moronic foodie soundbites are meaningless, except to showcase his stunning incompetence as a nutritionist. Who knows or cares what his grandmother recognized as food; I do know she shouldn’t have reproduced.
    The bar isn’t set very high. As gestures go, USDA’s “new plate logo” is insipid enough but it can rightly claim about 1000 times more meaning than Pollan’s brainless quips. The sum total of Pollan’s poetic contribution to human nutrition is making the USDA’s lame cartoon look like smokin’ hot rocket science by contrast.
    At least USDA means well. If you’re buying into Michael ‘food is too cheap’ Pollan’s hokey elitist schtick, well, you probably don’t even realize you’re groping about in a confused mental haze desperately seeking a folk hero to “trust” with your grocery money and your family’s safety.
    Sad sappy scientifically illiterate romantics. Little wonder we continue to experience food poisoning outbreaks.

  • dangermaus

    Well, if you’d read In Defense of Food, you’d know the reason for trying to eat things that are easily recognizable as “food” to his great-grandmother, is to invoke imagery of how we ate before processed foods were so pervasive. As for her reproductive choices, I’m sure most people who read the stuff you write, feel the same way about your grandmother’s descendants.
    Calling these statements “brainless” is a pretty unexamined statement, unless of course you’re asserting that the only way someone doesn’t share your opinions is because they haven’t thought about them – or you’re just choosing vitriolic words without really caring about what they mean, which I suspect is the case.
    It’s not that food is too cheap. Americans as a whole choose to buy too much low-cost, low-quality processed foods, which results in things like obesity, diabetes, etc. that every country that adopts our way of eating quickly develops. That’s a very different thing than claiming that the price of food is too low. Your statement reflects the foolish belief that any given tomato is the same as any other, regardless of type, freshness or flavor. I hope that even you can see that that isn’t true.
    It doesn’t matter if “the USDA means well” – or if Pollen does, either, for that matter. Of course they mean well, but that doesn’t matter. Son of Sam thought he was doing the will of God, but that doesn’t make his efforts anything other than what they were. My point is that the USDA is trying to do something (get people to eat better), and coming up woefully inadequate for the task. What’s required for that task is EXACTLY things like poetry and inspiration, but who could possibly be inspired by the myplate recommendations? My goodness… It seems to me like they’re implying that frozen dinners with lower salt is somehow still not artificial, fractionated crap!
    As far as comparing Pollen’s writing with the work that Nutrition Scientists do, they’ve got almost nothing to do with each other (other than they both deal with the topic of food). Any serious scientist understands the limits of making specific recommendations* in an insufficiently-understood, complex system such as a mammal ingesting and absorbing food, and who that organism then responds to metabolizing components of that food.
    *(like to cut down on milk fat – really? You’re saying 7 things to people about food and one of them is drink skim milk, but they don’t say anything about fast food?)

  • Doc Mudd

    I have no objection to USDA stopping short of confusing basic nutrition with food snobbery. Indeed, I expect no less of them.

  • dangermaus

    Mudd, if “food snobbery” is the belief that the only advantage that highly-processed foods have over real food is that it’s cheaper to produce, then I guess I’m a food snob.
    Sometimes, I wonder what’s in your pantry. Other than contempt for anything that rejects processed foods, do you have any beliefs about what people should eat?

  • If they don’t compromise anyone else’s safety, I believe people should eat whatever they damned please.
    And they absolutely should not tell me about it – I don’t care and it annoys the crap out of me to have some proselytizing orthorexic stupidly theorizing to tell me how to eat and how to work and how to live, and foolishly blathering on about how they expect to outlive me because of their petty peculiar eating obsessions. I’ve cheerfully outlived many an insipid self-deluded busybody…much to their deathbed chagrin, I sincerely hope.
    Food is food. Eat to live, don’t live to eat. Keep it safe out there, enjoy yourself and leave the rest of us alone to do likewise. Just don’t behave like a slippery snakeoil salesman or a pretentious preaching food snob – won’t be no trouble that way.

  • Fabulously simple, perfect for kids and lunchroom staff. Congratulations.