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Food Pyramid Face-Lift

August 27, 2011

The new MyPlate graphic, coupled with online tools, encourages healthy eating habits

From pyramid to plate, the nation’s food icon has received a face-lift. The new MyPlate graphic promises to be more user-friendly and is paired with online tools and resources to help Americans make healthy food choices.

The food icon, which serves as a visual representation of the USDA dietary guidelines, has historically been a pyramid. National dietary guideline policy dates back to 1902, when USDA issued the first Farmers’ Bulletin. That report emphasized the importance of variety,

proportionality and moderation as the healthy living best practices for American males. It also stressed the importance of eating an efficient and less expensive diet that includes more vegetables and proteins and discouraged the consumption of complex carbohydrates and sugars.

Pyramid to plate. More than 100 years later, that model embodies the consumer messages that are emphasized in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

"Key concepts in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines are balancing calories and eating fewer calories while gaining more nutrients to get more nutritional bang for our buck," says Stephanie Cundith, a registered dietitian for the Midwest Dairy Council.

According to USDA, the redesign of the food graphic from a pyramid to a plate was done to allow consumers to readily implement the dietary guidelines at home.

"MyPlate is a visual icon that serves as a cue to remind people to fill their plates with nutrient-rich foods," Cundith says. "It replaced MyPyramid and is a symbol more easily associated with mealtime."

The food pyramid, which has represented the dietary guidelines since 1992, was often considered overwhelming, confusing and not applicable by consumers. USDA hopes to change that with the new diagram.

"Our approach here is to make it very simple," explains Robert Post of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. "One icon cannot deliver everything that a consumer needs to know."

The website houses an entire menu of tools for both consumers and professionals, including diet builders; additional nutritional information; and the 2010 dietary guidelines policy.

The government agency is also using social media to attract consumers’ attention. A Twitter handle that is dedicated to the initiative blasts nutritional advice to consumers daily, and the plate icon was introduced to consumers by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the White House’s YouTube channel.

Gaining support. The plate is not only supported by USDA, but it has been adopted by the mom in the White House as well.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - September 2011

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