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Sayonara My Pyramid, Hello My Plate!

Posted on 06/7/2011

Sayonara My Pyramid, hello My Plate!

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rolled out last week the much-anticipated "My Plate" which replaces the "My Pyramid" icon.

My Plate is a circle, like a dinner plate, and is divided into quadrants to illustrate fruit, vegetables, protein and grains. Next to the plate is a small circle representing dairy, which could be a glass of milk, yogurt or cheese.  No longer will you see sugars, oils and fats mentioned, as you did with the pyramid, which was developed and in use in one form or another since 1992.

It was essentially created to help consumers better understand what a healthy diet consists of and how it appears on a plate -- or, at least a lunch and dinner plate. The portions are different for everyone taking into account nutritional needs based on age, health and other factors.

My first question is this a breakfast, lunch or dinner plate? Or, all the above? What about portion sizes (i.e., calories)?  And, what types of food qualify for each quadrant?

I guess this is a step in the right direction, but it is not about to solve the obesity problem. It must be solved by how many calories you take in versus how many you expend. Pure and simple. If you don't control calories, then you will not succeed in weight loss or weight management!

The pyramid was "tired out" according to the USDA, too complex for the average American and it tried to communicate too many nutrition facts all at once. It never really was completely embraced or adopted and was misunderstood by most people. The plate is suppose to alleviate that problem and help solve the healthy eating puzzle so many Americans are struggling with every day in this country.

The USDA's goal was to create awareness for new recommendations as part of federal dietary guidelines issued in January and for a way to resonate with most Americans who are overweight, obese and in serious need of changing their eating habits due to serious and deadly diseases.

What we get with My Plate is an approach that is more individualized and less focused on standardization for all than My Pyramid. However, in my opinion, the new icon falls short just as the previous one did. There are no considerations for portion sizes or calories -- essential to anyone wanting to lose weight or maintain weight. The plate also does not account for breakfast. Plate size is also key, what size of plate should be used in dividing it up? Most Americans use platter-sized plates instead of opting for appropriate sized plates.

So, basically, $2 million spent and two years later (the amount of time used to develop this new graphic, paid for by our tax dollars), the new icon is still short of what we really need to help Americans understand portion sizes and what they should eat. Big government at its finest!

I believe this new graphic could be helpful to some people since people are visual and by seeing a circle that represents a plate this could be a good learning tool. But, they must determine the right portions for his or her nutritional needs. It also shows what food groups to base your diet on (fruits and vegetables, grains and protein) and what ones to eliminate or eat sparingly (fats, oils and sugars). They also must determine the right caloric intake for their bodies. None of this is found with the plate. More is needed.

I truly applaud their efforts to make the change from pyramid to plate. Only time will tell if this will help the average American improve his or her diet and become healthier in the process. I do think more could be done to help the public better understand -- what size of plate, what about portions, what about breakfast and what healthy food choices they should make each day.

Now for those of you seeking to improve your eating habits and not figure out how your plate should appear...try Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating. We do all the planning, shopping, analyzing and cooking for you. I've been at this for more than 25 years and know what to base your diet on and what to avoid. It mirrors these new recommendations, just in simpler terms and in portions you can understand. You can say, it can't get any easier than that!


Seattle Sutton, BSN, RN

She made healthy eating her mission in life long before anyone else did, in hopes of helping her own obese father. A registered nurse by training and entrepreneur at heart, she lives, eats and breathes everything about healthy eating and helping to improve people’s eating habits and overall health. She enjoys never having to bother with grocery shopping, cooking and counting calories. Her favorite SSHE meal, although it’s hard to pick just one, is the Potato Gnocchi with Basil Pesto Sauce.

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