Monday, June 6, 2011

What's on Your Dinner Plate?

So I decided to break my blogging silence (not that I was really doing it on purpose) to talk about the new USDA 'food pyramid'. As you can see, it's no longer a pyramid but has been transformed into an interactive plate where you can click on each section to learn more about that portion of the plate. It is a drastic re-vamp of the pyramid, and they even changed the URL from '' to ''.
What's the big deal?
Personally I'm not a big fan of the change. While I agree that Americans should know how their plate should look and what components make up a balanced meal, I've singled out a few points that I feel like cause confusion or hinder the usefulness of this 'guide'. 

1. Too simple = too vague.  Something that I liked about the old pyramid, and in all honesty the old-old pyramid as well, is that it showed the public an 'at-a-glance' snapshot of how your daily intake should be broken up. By all means, it wasn't perfect, but it at least showed which foods were included in each category without you having to dive further into it. Unfortunately, if an individual does not have access to the Internet, this new image will not take them very far. I remember being in elementary school when the old one came out and having my teacher explain it using nothing more than the diagram itself.

2. Three square meals is not always the answer.  I don't know about you, but when I saw this the first thought that popped into my mind was that this was a dinner plate. Now not everyone may make the same assumption that I did, but I think when people see the image of a plate, dinner is not a far off thought. So what does this mean? I have to have three meals a day that are set up exactly like this? I can't have some protein and fruit for breakfast and then dairy and veggies as a snack later? Do I have to eat fruit with dinner; what if I don't like to eat fruit with my dinner? My point is, compared to the old model, this new version may lead people to believe that they have to adhere to a strict structure of setting up every meal a certain way, instead of showing that you can get all of your needs met throughout the day, and that only your own creativity can hinder you. 

3. Sometimes change is hard; If it's not broke don't fix it., how simple is that? Personally, I think it's a lot harder to remember and in the USDA's venture to simplify I feel like they ended up just making things more confusing. You will notice that if you type in the old URL it will still route you to the same site, but maybe the pyramid should have just stayed our symbol of nutritional guidance for the U.S., I mean what American hasn't heard of the food pyramid right?

So what do you think? Do you think taking the very heart of our battle, the dinner plate, and showing realistic portions will better the people who choose to use it as a reference, or did you like the old pyramid better? Maybe the USDA is on the right track with the plate, but they need to adjust it to make it more useful. The buzz is that they are still 'tweaking' the new model and that we should still expect some changes; if it was you, what would you keep, what would you change?

Keep it real,


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Blogger Elaine said...  

Very interesting... I agree if it ain't broke does it really have to be messed with? It's refreshing to see that young people like yourself don't always like change either. I hope My Plate takes the "obese" right out of "obesity", and doesn't draw Americans up to the table to "their plate". Great blog.

Blogger jenny aka. little j. said...  

I completely agree! I like the structure of the pyramid because it doesn't suggest you need one of everything in each meal or "plate". What if I eat a fruit-heavy breakfast, but don't have any at dinner? Is it okay as long as I still get the right amount of servings in over the course of the day?
Also, it suggests we're only allowed to drink our dairy? HOW OPPRESSIVE! ;)

Blogger Kara said...  

I thought this post was super fab! I know that nutrition is a HUGE issue for a lot of kids and families in AZ (are you still working at WIC? I can't remember where you landed recently) and it's something a lot of folks in non-profits work hard to promote. I like the old-school pyramid - seems simpler and easier to understand visually. I've seen the plate-percentage thing before and I think it's also a good tool, but I agree that it's not the be-all end-all of nutrition and should work in conjunction with the pyramid as maybe a guideline.

Also, these charts don't account for the fact that women need different balances of nutrients in their diets than men. I think overall nutrition is just too complicated of an issue to wrap up all in a tiny graph!

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