After 19 years, the food pyramid is no longer the icon for healthy eating. Now it’s a plate. Makes more sense, doesn’t it?
The Food Guide Pyramid was introduced in 1992, changed to MyPyramid in 2005, and dismantled on June 2, 2011 when First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack revealed the federal government’s newest food icon, MyPlate.
The pyramid was designed as a general guide to help Americans choose a healthful diet; but it had been criticized over the years for an assortment of reasons, and its effectiveness was debatable.
The message may surprise some people: Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, and make protein the smallest part of your meal.
MyPlate is a visual representation of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that were released in January and encourage Americans to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The circular icon of a divided plate with colored sections represents four of the food groups with a separate circle by its side to represent dairy.
The sections differ in size depending on the recommended amount of each food group a person should eat; however, the image is not designed to suggest portion sizes, but to represent the ratios in which foods should be eaten. The message may surprise some people: Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, and make protein the smallest part of your meal.
In a press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the First Lady said, "This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating and as a mom, I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country." She encouraged parents to look at their children’s plates and see that they are half full of fruits and vegetables and paired with lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.
Secretary Vilsack commented, "MyPlate is an uncomplicated symbol to help remind people to think about their food choices in order to lead healthier lifestyles. This effort is about more than just giving information; it is a matter of making people understand there are options and practical ways to apply them to their daily lives."
According to the American Dietetic Association, "The U.S. government’s new graphic symbol of nutritional advice for consumers contained in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will be a useful and intuitive way for people to eat well and improve their health, especially with the expert individualized advice provided by a registered dietitian."
In actuality, the pyramid isn’t really gone. MyPyramid will remain available in a special section of the new website for interested health professionals and nutrition educators. Later this year, the USDA plans to unveil an online tool that consumers can use to personalize and manage their diet and exercise choices.