The USDA released a new guide to healthy eating, replacing the familiar food pyramid with a dinner plate.
The new guide, called MyPlate, features five color-coded food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy. Fruits and vegetables make up half of the plate, with dairy in a cup on the side.
The launch of MyPlate comes at a time of renewed national focus on healthy eating. First lady Michelle Obama, who has led government efforts to battle obesity with her “Let's Move” initiative, helped unveil the new guide at the Department of Agriculture on Thursday. Federal dietary guidelines released in January encouraged Americans to restrict their salt and fat intake and eat more fruits and vegetables.
Some nutritionists and food industry groups say that the plate-shaped diagram, which will be used by teachers, doctors, and nurses as part of federal food programs, is easier to understand than the food pyramid. When the pyramid was first introduced to the American public in 1992, many nutritionists criticized the guide, claiming its arrangement encouraged disproportionate servings of the food groups at the bottom.
If the people praising MyPlate are right, then the guide may serve as a useful tool in health advocates' ongoing campaign against unhealthy eating. For food companies whose products fall under one of the represented categories, MyPlate presents a new marketing opportunity. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has already said in a statement that lean beef would meet the guide's protein recommendation, and grain groups are backing the suggestion that Americans eat more whole grains.
Notably missing from the MyPlate guide are fats, oils and sweets, which once sat at the top of the food pyramid. As the push to improve Americans' diets continues, this omission could prove a communications challenge to companies that market sweets and fatty foods.