Goodbye, pyramid. Hello, plate.
The Food Guide Pyramid was the model for healthy eating in the United States. Maybe you had to memorize its rainbow stripes in school.
But the USDA, the agency in charge of nutrition, has switched to a new symbol: a colorful plate —called MyPlate — with some of the same messages:
The pyramid had six vertical stripes to represent the five food groups plus oils. The plate features four sections (vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein) plus a side order of dairy in blue.
The big message is that fruits and vegetables take up half the plate, with the vegetable portion being a little bigger than the fruit section.
And just like the pyramid where stripes were different widths, the plate has been divided so that the grain section is bigger than the protein section. Why? Because nutrition experts recommend you eat more vegetables than fruit and more grains than protein foods.
The divided plate also aims to discourage super-big portions, which can cause weight gain.
You know what fruits and vegetables are, but here's a reminder about what's included in the three other food groups: protein, grains, and dairy:
First Lady Michelle Obama introduced the plate and said she will use it with her family, which includes the Obamas' two daughters, Sasha and Malia. Mrs. Obama, who started the Let's Move campaign to help kids get healthier, said the pyramid just wasn't easy enough for parents and kids to follow. The plate is simple and useful.
"I can't help but look at my own plate a little differently," she said. "We're implementing this in our household."
The plate can be used for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That may make you wonder: Do I really have to eat vegetables with breakfast? The answer is no, but aim to eat a variety of food groups at each meal. And if your breakfast doesn't include a veggie, consider a vegetable at snack time. (Yes, healthy, portion-controlled snacks are still OK.)
The plate also shows how to balance your food groups. There's a reason the protein section is smaller: You don't need as much from that group. Eating more fruits and vegetables will help you eat fewer calories overall, which helps you keep a healthy weight. Eating fruits and veggies also gives you lots of vitamins and minerals.
Expect to hear more about the MyPlate. The USDA promises new online tools to help people learn how to apply it to their everyday lives at ChooseMyPlate.gov. [Please note: By clicking on this link, you will be leaving our site.]
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: June 2011
|MyPlate Kids' Page This portion of the ChooseMyPlate.gov site offers a Blast Off game for kids, coloring pages, and posters.|
|BAM! Body and Mind This CDC website is designed for 9- to 13-year-olds and addresses health, nutrition, fitness, and stress. It also offers games for kids.|
|Plastic Fork Diaries Plastic Fork Diaries is a site especially for kids that has stories about school, nutrition, and other kids.|
|Learning About Carbohydrates Carbohydrates are a component of food. Find out why you need them in this article for kids.|
|What's the Right Weight for Me? TV shows, movies, and magazines show pictures of people who are thin. Does that mean being thin is best? Not necessarily. Find out more by reading this article for kids.|
|Go, Slow, and Whoa! A Kid's Guide to Eating Right Want to eat healthier? It's easy when you learn the difference between Go, Slow, and Whoa foods!|
|Figuring Out Food Labels The food label on a food package is a lot like the table of contents in a book - it tells you exactly what the food contains. Read our article for kids for more about food labels.|
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