In an effort to simplify the message it gives the public on healthy eating, the federal government unveiled a new icon to replace the complicated and confusing food pyramid: It’s a plate divided into four sections, with fruits and vegetables on one half and protein and grains on the other. A circle for dairy—indicating a glass of milk or container of yogurt—rests to the right of the plate.
The plate is far better than the old food pyramid in helping visualize what the composition of meals should look like. The simplicity of the plate is the key. In times where childhood obesity has become an epidemic in this country, targeting the younger generation is exactly what we need. The old food pyramid was very complicated and didn't give as much information as a quick glance at the new plate does.
The focus of the new tool is to fill half of your plate with plant-based foods. Fruits and Vegetables help fill you up, without filling you out! The other half of the plate is to be filled with whole grains and lean protein. The dairy on the side represents a serving of low-fat milk or yogurt showing it as the better choice than more fattening dairy products like cheese or ice cream.
A big difference between the pyramid and plate is the emphasis on the servings of grain. Grains, which had been featured prominently as the base in a previous food pyramid, are less dominant on the new plate. The plate icon is consistent with the USDA's dietary guidelines released in January, which recommended consuming whole grains rather than refined grains, such as white rice or white bread, which are stripped of some nutrients such as vitamins, fiber, and iron.
Next time you dish up your dinner, check to see if your plate looks anything like this. To learn more about the new plate icon, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.