Last week the USDA introduced My Plate. This new nutrition education program replaces the My Pyramid program, which was rolled out in 2005 to replace the Food Guide Pyramid, which debuted in 1992. My Plate is so new that, as of today, they haven’t even updated all the online resources.
|One criticism of My Pyramid was that it tried to|
convey too much information.
|This simplified version was often used|
instead of the full graphic above. This
one doesn't give enough information.
I can honestly say I am thrilled to see the pyramid go! As long as I have been old enough and mature enough to think seriously about diet, I never understood why the bread, cereal, rice, and pasta group was so large. Yes, your body needs these carbohydrates for energy. And yes, these foods, as long as they are whole grains, do provide the body with very valuable nutrients. But fruits and vegetables are more nutrient dense and offer a wider variety of nutrients. So I was very happy to see fruits and vegetables as 50% of the plate.
|That's way too many grains and not enough fruits and veggies.|
And having fats, oils, and sweets as a category almost
makes me feel like I should include them in my diet.
Unfortunately, the plate just says, “Grains.” I would prefer to see it say, “Whole Grains.” In the text that goes along with the diagram, the USDA recommends that you “make at least half your grains whole grains.” I know…refined grain products just taste so good! But they should be considered an exception. My goal every day is to feed my family only or mostly whole grains—not half whole grains. Refined grains provide a lot less nutrients than whole grains for the same amount of calories. (I think I will have to do a grain post in the near future.)
Another issue I have with My Plate is that they still consider 1 cup of 100% fruit juice equivalent to a 1-cup serving of fruit. I have so many problems with this that it too will have to be another post.
On a positive note, they did get rid of the words “meat and beans” and simply labeled it “protein.” Meat is not the only way to get good protein and beans themselves don’t offer a complete protein. Faithful readers will know that I like to serve grains and legumes together to make a complete protein that costs a lot less than meat. The plates in our house often do not have any meat or have very little.
So what do we do with My Plate?
- Recognize that it is a simplified educational tool.
- Recognize that each person has individual dietary needs.
- Eat real food: fresh/frozen fruits and veggies, dried whole grains and legumes, fresh meat and seafood, fresh dairy.
- Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables and eat all different colors.
- Watch portion size—a typical bagel counts as four servings.
- Make wise food choices—your plate can match the My Plate servings and still be unhealthy (e.g. hamburger [protein and grain], fries [vegetable], canned fruit [fruit], and chocolate milk [dairy]).