Nutrition guide

The food pyramid is out, MyPlate as a nutritional guide


Forget the food pyramid, the government standard for healthy eating for two decades.

The Obama administration replaced it on Thursday with a new icon – a plate half full of fruits and vegetables, the other half of grains and protein, with a smaller plate depicting dairy products – touting the clear and concise message of the symbol. The old symbol, MyPyramid, has been widely ridiculed as convoluted and confusing.

“We realized we needed something that made sense not only in classrooms or laboratories, but also at dining tables and in school cafeterias,” said First Lady Michelle Obama, whose The “Let’s Move” initiative prompted changes in nutrition programs to counter the country’s growing obesity problem, when the MyPlate chart was unveiled at a press conference in Washington.

“Parents don’t have time to measure exactly 3 ounces of chicken or check how much rice or broccoli is in a serving. It baffled me as a parent for a very long time. But we have time to watch. As long as they eat adequate portions, as long as half of their meal is made up of fruits and vegetables, along with their lean protein, whole grains, and low fat dairy products, then we are good. “

The hope is that MyPlate will help consumers navigate a maze of nutrition dos and don’ts. Instead of trying to decipher food labels, busy shoppers can stick to the basics by spending half the plate on producing; a quarter to protein, including meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, soy and beans; and a quarter to grains such as rice, bread and cereals.

“You don’t need to bring a magnifying glass or a calculator to the supermarket,” said Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. “Our mission is to improve the health and well-being of every American. It provides clear, simple, science-based information.”

The United Fresh Produce Association has called MyPlate a “tipping point” that can help persuade people to eat the right amounts of fruits and vegetables. The Washington trade group represents Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Dole Food Co. as well as smaller producers.

The American Meat Institute Foundation, which represents the big packers of meat, including Tyson Foods Inc. and Smithfield Foods Inc., said that “the new plate makes sense,” even with a serving of protein smaller than vegetables or the cereals.

“Considering the nutrient density of meat and poultry, less plate space is required to provide excellent nutrition,” said James Hodges, president of the foundation, in a press release.

In the past, some nutritionists have said the USDA guidelines more strongly reflect the department’s role as a promoter of the US food industry rather than a promoter of scientific research.

Benjamin, the surgeon general, said good eating habits are central to reducing healthcare costs in this country, where 1 in 3 children are overweight. Mission Readiness, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization run by retired military leaders dedicated to investing in America’s youth, believes good nutrition is a matter of national security. Today, 75 percent of 17-24 year olds do not meet the basic minimum standards required for military service, according to the group.

“If we don’t have enough healthy kids, how can we have a volunteer army? Asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who said he can relate to the legions of Americans trying to tackle the bulge. “No one knows how difficult the weight problems are for me. It is very difficult.”

The MyPlate logo comes more than four months after the US Department of Agriculture released new dietary guidelines, promoting more fruits and vegetables and a nutrient-dense diet. The plate is one more step in conveying the message, said officials, who plan to roll out the campaign more in later stages, including encouraging people to eat less, switch to skimmed or low-fat milk. fat, choose foods low in sodium fat and drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Zenobia Barlow, executive director of the Center for Ecoliteracy, a Berkeley organization involved in improving school lunch programs, said the Plate is a dramatic improvement over the Food Pyramid. Not so long ago, the center interviewed sixth-graders about the ancient symbol and found that they had difficulty understanding what was good for them and what was bad.

“They thought the fat and sugar had to be good because it was at the top of the pyramid,” she said. “The graph was counterintuitive. The plaque is simple and straightforward. You can understand it and keep it in your mind.”

However, said Barlow, she wishes the government had spent the $ 2 million it spent creating the graphic on more fruit and veg for school lunches.

“Right now there isn’t enough federal funding to fill half a plate,” she said.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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