The new USDA food pyramid is a plate. It’s called “MyPlate” (there is probably an iPlate app already) and it makes sense… in some ways.

It looks remarkably like the vegan power plate brought to us in 2009 by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Hmm…maybe the country is starting to catch on?

The Vegan Power Plate, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

This is the Vegan Power Plate, brought to you by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

“MyPlate” is more accessible and reflects a better balance of nutrition, but nutritionists, health experts, and foodies are not completely thrilled with it. Here are a few sticky bits on MyPlate:

  • It breaks the food groups up into four main food groups: Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, Proteins (and Dairy in a cup on the side). Protein is not a food, it is a nutrient.
  • Many Americans equate the Proteins part of the plate with Meat. This is a boon for the meat industry. But meat is not the only, nor the best source of protein for the body. Grains are good sources of protein. One cup of cooked quinoa, for example, contains 18 grams of protein.
  • Dairy is not a necessary aspect of a healthy diet. According to Plants & Animals Denver, a vegan advocacy group: “Anyone with half a brain knows you don’t need dairy and it’s inclusion on any food pyramid/graph is purely economic/political”.
  • According to nutritionist and author Marion Nestle, “People who consume the most dairy have the most osteoporosis.” (Quoted on NPR’s Here & Now, June 7, 2011). This view is held by many, many health advocates and nutritional counselors.
  • MyPlate recommends that half of each meal consist of fruits and vegetables, and yet less than 1% of annual federal subsidies support the fruit and vegetable industries. Most subsidies (sometimes in excess of 63%) go to the dairy industry.

USDA 1943 Food Guidelines: Butter!

You can see that the new food guide MyPlate is still politically charged, it has been since the 1940′s when the government listed butter as its own group. The 1992 food pyramid did not stress meat and dairy enough to suit those industries and for this reason was pulled. The 2005 food pyramid included a category for “Discretionary” calories which included candy and alcohol. Many claimed that the USDA “was and is unduly influenced by political pressure exerted by lobbyists for food production associations” such as diary and meat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MyPyramid) .

Here are some good things on MyPlate:

  • The top recommendation in the new dietary guidelines: enjoy our food, but eat less.
  • A plate just makes more sense than a pyramid – it’s easier to visualize appropriate  portions on a plate than it is on a pyramid.
  • Half of the plate is comprised of fruits and vegetables!

Some believe that MyPlate and the new dietary guidelines still pander to the big food lobbies. For example, the new guidelines recommend we reduce our sodium intake from bread and soup, but fail to mention reducing sodium-laden salty snacks and highly processed foods. But MyPlate is easier to use and understand. If you want to cut calories, just use a smaller plate.

Take a look at your dinner plate tonight (or at lunch). Let us know what it looks like. Send pictures!

image credit: www.choosemyplate.gov, www.hsph.harvard.edu, www.nal.usda.gov