If you were educated in the United States, up until last week you associated healthy food guidelines with the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) Pyramid. Seriously, the food pyramid has been an icon for 19 years. The pyramid has changed over the years, with the last revision released in 2005, but the basics stayed the same. Until now.
Now there is the USDA Food Plate, approved by the Obamas as a simpler and easier to understand graphic with recommendations built off of seven of the US Government's 2010 Dietary Guidelines for all Americans:
- Enjoy food but eat less.
- Avoid oversized portions.
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
- Compare sodium in foods, choosing lower sodium.
- Make at least half your grains whole grains.
According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak, "MyPlate can help prioritize food choices by reminding us to make half of our plate fruits and vegetables and shows us the other important food groups for a well-balanced meal: whole grains, lean proteins, and low fat dairy." The White House even released a YouTube video announcing the new graphic.
How useful this will be in a society dominated by Supersized Extra Value Buckets of fast food will remain to be seen. Restaurant portion sizes are so large that we do not even know what a standard portion of food looks like anymore. In addition, the guidelines do not differentiate between fresh, canned, and frozen fruits and vegetables, and they classify sugar-filled fruit juices under "fruits and vegetables" instead of "sugary drinks."
First Lady Michelle Obama hopes that the image will be simple enough for children to easily remember and use throughout their lives. "Kids can learn to use this tool now and use it for the rest of their lives," Obama said. "It's an image that can be reinforced at breakfast, lunch and dinner."