TOPICS > Health

Plate Pushing Vegetables, Fruit Ousts Food Pyramid

BY Jason Kane  June 2, 2011 at 3:17 PM EDT

The decades-old food pyramid crumbled Thursday when the Department of Agriculture announced that a simple plate would become its new symbol for healthy eating.

Divided into four sections representing fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein — with a small side of dairy — the new plate is designed to show Americans at a glance the types of foods they should be eating and in what proportions.

“It’s an opportunity for Americans to understand quickly how to have a balanced and nutritious meal,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “It’s a constant reminder as you look at your own plate whether your portion sizes are right, whether you’ve got enough fruits and vegetables on that plate.”

Vilsack launched the new icon at a news conference with first lady Michelle Obama and Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin.

The MyPlate campaign will encourage Americans to fill up half their diet with fruits and vegetables, avoid sugary drinks and back away from oversized portions.

First lady Michelle Obama

The circa-1992 food pyramid came under harsh criticism for focusing too heavily on carbohydrates, which made up its base, and dairy products.

Its 2005 replacement, MyPyramid, turned the pyramid on its side to take some of the emphasis off particular food groups, However, it required computer access and was largely dismissed by nutrition experts as even more confusing.

Developed by the Department of Agriculture, the MyPlate campaign received input from the first lady’s office as part of her initiative to tackle childhood obesity plus about 4,500 people in focus groups.

“I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country,” Michelle Obama said at the launch. “When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work, we’re already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew. So it’s tough to be a nutritionist, too. But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. As long as they’re half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden. That’s how easy it is.”

MyPlate lines up with the government’s dietary guidelines released in January, which stress:

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 percent) milk.
  • Make at least half of your grains whole grains

Foods to Reduce

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