Prest-O Change-O: The Food Guide Pyramid Becomes a Plate!

So long, MyPyramid. Hello, MyPlate!

Remember that United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) pyramid we’ve seen with colorful vertical bars representing the six major food groups and a person climbing steps on the pyramid demonstrating moderate  physical activity? You would find it on thousands of food packaging materials from cereals to canned vegetables to sports drinks in grocery stores.

 The USDA kept receiving feedback that the pyramid, though it had been updated and modified a few times over the years (most recently as “MyPyramid”), was often confusing for Americans, particularly children. So, on June 20, 2011 the USDA replaced the pyramid with a simplified version and named it “MyPlate.”

The new MyPlate and the old MyPyramid are in each agreement with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These updated guidelines encourage Americans to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, use low-fat or fat-free dairy products, drink water instead of sugary drinks like soda, read the Nutrition Facts label to limit high-sodium foods, pass up super-sized portions and basically eat less.

If both MyPyramid and MyPlate are in line with the guidelines, your first question would probably be, “What’s the difference between the two?” The major guidelines continue intact but MyPlate and MyPyramid do display some clear differences:

  1. Fats, oils or sugar are not shown on MyPlate. These were shown on MyPyramid in the form of a narrow gold band. It is assumed that, as a grandparent, you know that fats are a required part of every diet and essential to your grandkids’ longterm health. It also assumes that you know that all fats are not created equal and that some of the foods you include on your grandkid’s plate will contain fat or be prepared using a “healthy” fat.
  2. Physical activity is missing from MyPlate. Here, it is also presumed that you understand the importance of an active lifestyle to your grandchildren to their longterm, physical health.
  3. Less emphasis on grains. The food pyramid emphasized grains, which filled in the largest spot at the bottom of the pyramid in the original version, and the large orange vertical bar in the 2005, MyPyramid version. MyPlate shows only one quadrant section (1/4 of the plate)) for grains. It points out that whole grains are preferred but focuses on fruits and vegetables, which take up half the plate, more than any other food group. This difference is seen as major progress by most nutrition professionals. Why? Because Americans eat far less than the 5-a-day requirement.
  4. The “Meat & Beans” food group on MyPyramid has been replaced by the “Protein” section on MyPlate. Protein is a nutrient, not a food group, as the other sections of MyPlate are. In this case, protein means a variety of sources such as meat, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, beans, soy, etc.

Links for more ideas:

 Comprehensive MyPlate website:

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/

USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines Summary:

http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/ExecSumm.pdf

10 Tips to a Great Plate:

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet1ChooseMyPlate.pdf

Kids Health – The Differences Between MyPyramid and MyPlate:

http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_center/healthy_eating/myplate.htm

Janice Wade-Miller is a nutrition educator in Tallahassee, Florida. She has earned her bachelors and masters degrees in Food and Nutrition from Florida State University. In her role as a health educator, she has assisted all age groups, from young children to senior citizens in learning about good nutrition, health and food safety. Her email address is jmiller@iamforkids.org.

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