Thoughts On The New MyPlate

by Chris on June 23, 2011


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There’s been a decent amount of talk about the new MyPlate USDA recommendations lately and I’ve been asked a few times what I think about it.

I’ll try to keep this relatively short and sweet: first of all nutritional guidance has never exactly been a strong point for the government. Far more knowledgeable people than I have written to great length about why government recommendations of carb-heavy, grain based low-fat diets are terrible for your health, so I won’t get into that too much (although I will link to some good resources if you want to know more).

Here are a few problems I have noticed or had brought to my attention regarding the MyPlate icon:

First would be the vagueness of the label protein. To most people this doesn’t mean much. I understand the logic of trying to make it easy to understand, but I still think that something that vague is doing people a disservice. (We’ll get into the whole “making it easy to understand thing” in a minute)

Second, and fairly important, is that there is no mention of fats at all on this. It’s unfortunate that the government still seems to be supporting the viewpoint that fats are bad, and thus failed to include them at all. Many people believe, and with good evidence to support it, that the government’s standpoint that grains are magical and good and fats are horrible (false) is one of the primary reasons that Americans are so damn obese in the first place. I will say that on the MyPlate website there is mention of getting heart healthy Omega-3s in the diet, but that’s still a very narrow understanding of the good that fats can do.

I also don’t like that the plate represents 3/4 of the diet as carb sources (especially the fact that grains make up about as much of the plate as vegetables). We are a carb addicted society and this guideline isn’t helping. Not to mention that there isn’t any mention of the difference between various grains.

Also, the little circle representing dairy presents its own problems, such as only representing dairy as a liquid. Hopefully I don’t have to mention that other kinds of dairy (like greek-style yogurt) are much healthier than plain old milk.

Here I will defer to my friend Tony Paradis, a registered dietician, from over at for his opinion on the new guidelines:

‘When I first saw the unveiling of the USDA MyPlate my opinion developed in 2 steps.

1. Over 66% of Americans are overweight and obese. There is an obvious need for change. The MyPlate could be that change.
2. And then the realistic expectations of the USDA MyPlate hit me.

Of the 66% of Americans that are overweight and obese, not a single one of them is because the Food Pyramid was too difficult to grasp. Let us be real. There is an endless sea of fitness and nutrition advice out there. MyPlate just adds yet another one to the thousands. Unless some seriously aggressive steps are taken to change public policy, or public opinion about obesity, we can be damn sure that pictures of food on a plate (USDA MyPlate) is what I call “bringing a knife to a gun fight.”‘

All that being said there are some good things, I suppose about the MyPlate. It easily depicts that fruits and vegetables should make up a significant part of the diet. It also does show people how they can break up their meals in a simple manner that is easy to relate to. It’s a lot easier to to put together a meal with this icon than the old pyramid and suggestions like X servings of fruit a day. If you actually go to the MyPlate website you can see more in depth recommendations beyond the simplicity of the icon. Having looked it over I can say that some of these recommendations are a step in the right direction.

Moral of the story, I highly doubt this campaign will make a significant dent in the obesity epidemic in our country while we’re still cutting gym classes and athletic programs, sitting at computers and TVs all day and sugary processed foods are more easily accessible than fruits, vegetables and meats that are pumped with chemicals, steroids and other crap.

What are your thoughts on the new MyPlate campaign? Leave some comments below.

{ 1 comment }

Clayton June 24, 2011 at 11:02 am

I think the my plate is an improvement from the pyramid since it’s simpler for the average person to understand. when you get into the breakdown of actual serving sizes, almost nobody follows it. i mean you’d be counting ounces and grams all day long to get erfect serving sizes. the diagram is alcking, but it shows what a plate should look like for the average person.

it isnt going to be a radical increase because the governemtn cant force weight loss on the people (although they should and have started to in some states). it sucks, but its easier to look at a diagram of a plate than a pyramid.

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