Remember the classic food pyramid?
The USDA food pyramid that tried to help Americans eat healthy, balanced meals has been replaced with a new graphic, called MyPlate. Instead of a pyramid anchored with grains, fruits and vegetables, the MyPlate graphic is designed to make Americans better able to assess the health value of each meal just by looking at the proportions of their plate. The circular plate is divided into four portions—two larger labeled Vegetables and Grains, and two smaller labeled Fruit and Protein. Off to the side is a smaller circle for dairy products.
USDA nutritionists are hoping this new graphic will fit closer to current dietary recommendations and be easier to follow than the classic food pyramid. The pyramid had been critiqued for several years for over-emphasizing carbohydrates, not differentiating between whole and white grains, and using a measure of portion sizes many Americans found confusing. The new design, with its clean rings clearly resembling a plate and cup, should be more readily recognizable to most people. The MyPlate graphic and accompanying health guidelines advocate a balanced diet that emphasizes whole grains and plant products over animal products, a shift that has been called for by health experts for several years. Using the MyPlate graphic as a visual cue, Americans would be trained to visually divide their plates into quarters and fill it with the appropriate foods—a simple visual reminder that a steak for one should not be the size of a dinner plate, and that a giant bowl of pasta is not a balanced meal.
Along with the new graphic, the USDA has also just released new dietary guidelines that are being hailed by health experts as one of the first governmental health bulletins with the clear advice to consume fewer calories. The new guidelines specifically recommend that Americans “eat less” and “avoid oversized portions”. With almost 2/3 of American adults overweight or obese, the USDA is taking measures to educate and inform the American public about the dangers of overeating and trying to provide a simple, straightforward source of reliable diet information in a market glutted with fad diets and weight-loss promises.
Low Fat and Half the Grains?
The guidelines advocate that consumers switch to low-fat dairy products, eat at least half whole grains, choose lower-sodium prepared foods, and drink water instead of all other drinks. When First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the successor to the healthy eating pyramid earlier this week, critics objected to the image of Mrs. Obama, clad as always in designer clothes and diamonds, as a voice of the American people, but dieticians, nutritionists and doctors across the country celebrated the clear new message of healthy eating.
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