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Healthy Balance

From Food Pyramid to Plate: Reshaping the Way We Look at Our Food, Part 1

“I have lived temperately, eating little animal food, and that … as a condiment for the vegetables, which constitute my principal diet.” — Thomas Jefferson.

The first food pyramid appeared in 1902 in a USDA Farmers’ Bulletin. Since then, the contents of this guide to a healthy diet have changed, but the pyramid shape has remained. Until June, that is, when the USDA, with support from First Lady Michelle Obama, revealed “MyPlate,” the new and decidedly round guide to healthy eating.

Food Pyramid to Plate: The Evolution

food pyramid and myplate timeline

What’s on the Plate?

Wendy Phillips, MS, RD, CNSC, CLE, and Angela Hasemann, RD, clinical dietitians at UVA, are both very excited about MyPlate. The primary take-home message they emphasize is that your plate should be half fruits and vegetables. Hasemann says, “In the MyPlate design, you see five different colors, each representing a food group. Do your meals have this variety? Try packing something from each food group in your lunch tomorrow and enjoy a truly balanced meal.”

The food plate consists of the following basics:

  • ½ plate = vegetables and fruits (more vegetables than fruit)
  • ½ plate= grains and protein (more grain than protein)
  • A cup of dairy (ex. milk or yogurt)

Of course, as Phillips points out, MyPlate doesn’t guard against adding items like cheese sauce to your broccoli or butter on your bread. It also does not indicate how large your plate can be.  Still, according to Phillips, “The plate method is a great starting point and that its highlight of keeping your diet at half fruits and vegetables is a great improvement.”

Is My Plate Your Plate?

We recently posted a poll on our Facebook page to see what you thought of the new MyPlate option:
The USDA announced a couple of months ago that it’ll be swapping its traditional food pyramid for a new food plate to help us make healthier eating choices. Which one do you prefer to use?

  • Food Plate: 87.5%
  • Food Pyramid: 4.2%
  • They are both the same: 0%
  • I don’t pay attention to either of them: 0%
  • Other: 8.3%

To learn how you can turn your plate into a local plate, check out Part II tomorrow.

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