Thursday, June 2, 2011

Introducing the New Food Icon - MyPlate

Since 1992, the Food Guide Pyramid was the main food icon used to represent recommended healthy eating choices. It was then revised into the Mypyramid year 2005, which confused people even more!

MyPlate - USDA's new food icon
So today, the USDA unveiled the new food icon: MyPlate!
"We eat on plates, not pyramids" says Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietitian and a nutrition blogger for So it's logical to use a plate to familiarize people with healthier food choices. From the looks of it, it can help people assess if what they have in their plates (especially when eating out) is in fact the healthy deal or not and adjust accordingly.

It is divided into 4 sections: vegetables, grains, fruits and proteins. It focuses on balancing calories by enjoying food but in the same time eating less and avoiding oversized portions, increasing one's intake of fruits and vegetables, making half of your grains whole, switching to low (1%)/fat free milk, watching your sodium intake and having water instead of sugary drinks.

Moreover, the word protein was used instead of meat such that people can learn to choose from meats, poultry, fish or vegetarian sources of proteins. Meat is not = to proteins although the meat industry wants it to be the case! Note that alcohol, sweets and added fats are all off the plate, implying that these foods should be avoided/used sparingly! One should also keep in mind that the plate illustrates the whole diet, not every meal of the day!
A good thing is that it is kid-friendly in order to help kids adopt healthier lifestyles earlier in life and keep them as they grow up into adulthood! MyPlate also focuses on the word "My" (just like MyPyramid did) to make such healthy choices more personalized into everyone's life. It could suggest as well what your shopping cart should look like so overall it can pass as a food icon to spread the "healthy" word!

Yet, just by looking at it, one can not really know:
  • How big is this plate? And what exactly is an oversized portion size?
  • How much can we have of each food group? I mean 20% proteins for example? And of course dietitians can assess this, but making such a tool should in fact empower people to easily adapt it in their own eating habits!
  • By simply looking at the plate, you can't really know that skimmed milk is advised, that half the grains are ought to be whole or that water is preferred over sugary drinks! I mean why don't we call the grains section whole grains to begin with!
  • How much fat can we have? And are there any types better than others (obviously)? We can't really overlook the fat category as small as we hope it to be!
  • Most importantly, physical activity is as important as adapting a healthy diet. So why wasn't it mentioned AT ALL?
The plate doesn't really answer every issue tackled in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines so having this tool will not entirely empower people to adapt healthier food choices!I think it's good to have a simple icon, but maybe- just maybe, this icon is too simple? I mean in case you did not have access to, will you be able to know what to eat?

Either way, good thing is that MyPlate is also accompanied by MyPlate Brochure10 tips nutrition education seriessample menus and healthy recipes!  

When it comes to plates, I prefer the University of Michigan's Great Plate!
It's a plate alright, but with more details - and more importantly real food examples, on what veggies, fruits, carbs, starchy vegetables, proteins, dairy and fat groups are! This could be a great plate with some recommendations from However, for some reason, all these plates seem to forget how crucial physical activity is as a part of a healthy lifestyle!


  1. Paty! Very interesting Review !
    You tackled just the right points!
    & I agree with this oversimplification thing! People need to know more about their food !
    also interesting picture from the michigan university! this can be used by dietitians if they dont want to be too simple!
    Oups even i forgot the physical activity!it needs a symbol !

  2. Exactly! I mean giving examples can help differentiate which carbs are considered whole or which proteins are lean to start with. And yea no idea what's up with excluding physical activity. But either way, habbet eno alo that this tool is not enough to fight obesity because knowledge is not the only issue to tackle here, so nchalla kher:p dunno eza in Leb. they are going to adopt this!

  3. Paty I don't agree with you.
    The fact that the plate is very simple makes it beautiful, people can't rely on it to understand how big is the plate or guess that they should drink skimmed milk and have half of their grains as whole grains. People could be attracted by the plate, go read about it on the website or ask their dietitian and find out about all these details as well as about the fat group and the physical activity. This plate would stimulate their curiosity and increase their memorability since they tried to find out.
    In addition, by being so simple, people could visualize it when they look at their actual plate and remember all the tips and recommendations.
    However, the Great Plate of the university of Michigan is sort of complete I agree but it is not as attractive as MyPlate, plus it has a lot of details so it's kind of crowded for the general public.

    Joana - Dietitian

  4. i agree wit Joana on it being easy to retain so we can imagine our plate but it's very simple and lacking lots of information. But yes, easy to remember the form.

  5. Exactly, good thing it is easy to retain and to implement directly into your own plate, yet it still could have said whole grains, lean proteins, emphasize on deep colored vegetables, skimmed milk, you know some examples such that even if you did not get proper education along with the plate, you will have a notion on what to include, that's all!