USDA's Iconic Food Pyramid Retires
The Pyramid, which has guided Americans since 1992, has undergone several incarnations, but until now has retained its basic three-sided shape, though in 2005, it was renamed “MyPyramid” and redesigned with a three-dimensional ‘back’ section reminding diners to exercise.
It’s newest look, called “MyPlate,” looks like roughly like plate (or pie chart), divided into four sections, for fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins, with a smaller circle or “glass” to one side reserved for dairy.
The schematic, while simple and quick to read, functions primarily as a gateway to the USDA’s new website, ChooseMyPlate.gov. The site contains a full explanation of the guidelines, along with suggestions of what constitutes a grain, protein, dairy, etc.
Unlike the pyramid, nowhere on this new chart do sweets or fatty foods appear.
Additionally, ChooseMyPlate,org strives to emphasize seven specific dietary elements that the former pyramid did not:
• Enjoy your food, but eat less
• Avoid oversized portions
• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks
• Make at least half your grains whole grains
• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk
• Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals - and choose the foods with lower numbers.
The website includes a section that allows visitors to assess their own diets, plan healthy menus, and track their dietary progress.
According to a New York Times article, the USDA spent $2 million to design and promote the plate as part of Michele’s campaign against obesity. By retiring the pyramid and replacing it with something new, Obama hopes to draw attention to what makes a healthy diet. The updated design also allows the USDA to tweak its former guidelines in light of new scientific discoveries, such as the idea that some fats, like olive oil and fish oil, may actually be good for us.
However, by oversimplifying its image to cater to an online audience, MyPlate limits its message to those who may not have access to ChooseMyPlate.gov and may mislead those who do not fully explore the new content. It will be interesting to see if the newly redesigned icon informs Americans more… or less… than it’s predecessor, the familiar, though imperfect, food pyramid.
See the new design and website for yourself at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
SLIDESHOW: Timeline of Food Guidelines
Reach Whitney Bratton here.