Over the last 20 years, the food pyramid has served as a major nutritional icon. On June 2, 2011, First Lady, Michelle Obama along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled in a press release the latest tool to aid in the battle of obesity, MyPlate (ChooseMyPlate.gov).
MyPlate, the new symbol of appropriately balanced meals, will replace the iconic Food Pyramid. The new graphics are designed to be consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans released in January this year.
The basic messages contained in the new guidelines are as follows:
• Enjoy your food, but in smaller amounts
• Avoid oversized meals
Foods to Increase
• Aim for half your plate fruits and vegetables.
• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) dairy products.
• Make at least half your grains the whole variety
Foods to Reduce
• Note the sodium (salt) in various foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and choose those with lower numbers.
• Aim for drinking water as opposed to sugary beverages.
The idea of using a plate to help educate individuals on appropriate portion sizes is not a new concept. The truth is that dietitians and nutritionists have been using education tools very similar to these new graphics for years with many of their clients. The reason being is that a plate is something that everyone can relate to as it’s considerably less abstract than the food pyramids of the past. It’s also quite adaptable so that no matter what kind of diet a person follows, the graphic can be utilized to illustrate portions in relation to the various food groups.
A major downfall of this new graphic has to do with the fact that it lacks the incorporation of exercise represented in the former Food Pyramid icon. The figure climbing the side of the pyramid symbolized the need for physical activity as a part of a healthy lifestyle.
Just as the new icon shows the importance of balance in your meals, we also need to balance a healthy lifestyle with the incorporation of physical activity.
It’s my hope that as this new campaign rolls out over the next several months, the importance of physical activity for weight management, improved health and ultimately disease prevention will be emphasized either through the initiatives set forth in the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign or through additional education tools that support the new MyPlate program.