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USDA replaces the food pyramid


Cafeterias and health classes across the country are still reeling from the bombshell dropped by Michelle Obama yesterday: The famed food pyramid is no more.

Originally introduced in 1992, the first food pyramid aimed to educate our youth in healthy eating habits by breaking down the food groups into a supposedly easy to understand graphic that outlined the suggested number of servings per day. What better way to prevent obesity and heart disease than a solid diet built on a foundation of 6-11 daily servings of carbs, huh?

Well, it seems that having multiple words, numbers, and perplexing punctuation such as commas was too much for us to understand. Behold the USDAs newest solution: MyPlate.


The new graphic strips away all of the reading and breaks everything down to a per-meal suggestion. Rather than force us to think about how many servings of dairy we had at breakfast while considering cheese on our burger for lunch, MyPlate gives a clear visual of what the proportions of each food group on your plate should look like.

Fruits and veggies lead the way, taking up 50% of the plate, followed by grains and protein. And I think that dairy serving is supposed to be a glass of milk, but since I don’t drink milk, I’m going with a cup of strawberry yogurt. Or, like most 3rd graders will inevitably jump to first, chocolate ice cream.

Granted, the new stripped down graphic leaves out many important factors – how much salt is on that pork chop, fat in the broccoli casserole, or if your eat your meals with a serving fork and your plate is the size of a hubcap – but you can’t expect all of that info to make the cut. Simplicity is the idea, and I can see the merit in that. Considering that 75% of men and women between the ages of 17-24 are so out of shape that they can’t qualify for military service, some dumbing down may be in order.


Food Pyramid, circa 2005

While I appreciate the idea behind the change, made all the more necessary by the 2005 revision of the pyramid to include a stair climbing stick-figure and the special effects from Xanadu, this could be an exercise in futility if no one actually pays attention. It doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try though.

What do you think? Will MyPlate have an impact on the swelling youth of America? Or could the USDAs efforts be better spent elsewhere?

- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog

30 comments Add your comment


June 3rd, 2011
8:23 am

Nobody should be “reeling” since this change was expected for weeks. Only quibble I have with it is, I wish the portion sizes on the plate were a tad more exaggerated to make the serving sizes more understandable. The pyramid did that, for me anyway.


June 3rd, 2011
9:57 am

Looks like the old “four food groups” scenario to me. And since when is dairy not protein?


June 3rd, 2011
9:59 am

I got your 4 basic food groups. Beans, bacon, whiskey and lard.


June 3rd, 2011
11:51 am

Milk has lactose, a simple sugar, and therefore carbs, plus fat and protein in varying ratios from whole to non-fat. Cheese has different ratios, depending on the type, of course. Dairy as a ’special case’ makes a lot of sense to me, and you see it treated that way by most diet plans.


June 3rd, 2011
12:31 pm

these are our children that are learning about the different food groups and healthy eating habits. Not a board meeting of adults. I think the details of the original pyramid were necessary. I remember learning the pyramid in class with the teacher not only teaching us the different categories. But also what particular foods are in those categories and the break down of those foods. It made us actually think about what we eat. Afterwards we were able to look at food and place it in its category.

The plate is too simple. We want our kids to think more not less. The plate just isnt realistic

If Ms. Obama wants to change something. Change something that needs changing


June 3rd, 2011
2:32 pm

You eat off of plates, not pyramids right? We are just glad the rest of the country is catching up to what The Portion Plate has been doing for years.


June 3rd, 2011
4:11 pm

Where does the BEER or WINE or mixed drink go?


June 3rd, 2011
6:15 pm

Beer probably goes in the Grain section and wine in the Fruits section. I suppose for mixed drinks it’s a toss-up depending on if you use corn based liquor or maybe if you had a pina colada it’d definitely be Fruits, while a martini with an olive would be Vegetables. It’s really great that the Fruit and Vegetable sections are the largest:-)

Five Steps Back

June 4th, 2011
8:37 am

I watched a part of Jamie Oliver’s Revolution last night. A group of HS seniors in an LA public school. The kids thought butter came from corn, and a number of different seemingly basic nutrition information. Perhaps it is a reflection of public education system, but this ‘dumbing down’ of nutrition is not going to transform people’s eating. Perhaps next, we’ll have a Grananimals-type food pyramid program.

I wonder how much time and money was spent creating it? It could have been churned out by a 3rd grader’s science project. I would love to see the ones that didn’t get selected.

This, in combination with the government’s ‘Get moving’ program with ‘Be a playa’ are sending great messages.

Healthy eating isn’t as simple as the pie chart. Then again, considering we are dealing with 17 year olds who think butter comes from corn, I am not surprised.

Ga Dawg

June 4th, 2011
9:36 am

Uhhmmm, the FIRST food pyramid was introduced long before 1992. Not sure what year, but I know I learned about it in school.

Ga Dawg

June 4th, 2011
9:40 am

We were taught about the pyramid in the late 70’s and through the 80’s. I see it was developed in Denmark in ‘78. I suppose we just went along but it wasn’t official until ‘92.

I don’t think we are “dumbing down” in this case. I’m all for simplicity because most Americans don’t know how to choose healthful foods. Here it is: shop the perimeter of your grocery store. Stay away from the inside aisles as much as possible. FRESH IS BEST. Organic is even better. Genetically Modified should scare you and always choose LOCAL when possible.


June 4th, 2011
9:54 am

The visuals are all well and good, but childhood obesity will not be ameliorated until parents start supervising what their children eat. It has been my observation that fat kids always have fat parents. I have never seen s slim soccer mom with a chubby kid. The fat parents won’t limit what their kids eat because they don’t limit what they eat. Order a double pepperoni with large coke and the whole family chows down.


June 4th, 2011
10:22 am

“dumbing down”…proof that the education is taking its toll on the population. instead of bringing people to the level of understanding, we lower the bar of expectation. good move


June 4th, 2011
10:27 am

The MyPlate concept is not new. The American Institute for Cancer Research introduced the New American Plate (2/3 (or more) vegetables, fruits, whole grains or beans and 1/3 (or less) animal protein) in 1999 to help people eat better to prevent cancer. It is heavy in fruits and vegetables and lighter in protein. Most Americans get more protein than needed in their diet (an adult only needs the equivalent of 6 ounces of meat or poulty a day-ordering a small steak from a restuarant gives you that in one sitting). Our portion sizes are outrageous. The AICR’s plate emphasizes more reasonable portions with an increase in daily activity. No, the MyPlate concept is not new.


June 4th, 2011
10:44 am

It really is quite simple to eat right. If it tastes good it’s fattening. If you stick to foods that don’t taste too good you will lose weight. If it tastes great you won’t. Simple.


June 4th, 2011
11:07 am

Should we really be eating quite that many carbohydrates?


June 4th, 2011
11:10 am

“jenni kraig” –

Perhaps you should be studying basic grammar and spelling in order to make your message more effective.


June 4th, 2011
11:27 am

We focus too much on food and not enough on exercise.


June 4th, 2011
1:14 pm

I like the concept of MyPlate – the simplicity can be both understood and lead to detailed discussions. However, the portions are not consistent with the pyramid – like to see less protein, same grains and more veggies. As Leslie shared, we only need a small amount of protein. And the Dairy needs to go completely. Dairy is not needed in the human body except for a newborn/toddler. Calcium can come more easily & be absorbed from plant sources. Typical dairy (particularly cow’s milk, and dairy as used in our society) promotes candida, asthma, parasites, and other illnesses. So, put Water in that cup!! Hydration does need to be promoted.

wild woman

June 4th, 2011
2:06 pm

I am on board with { 1164mgc }. I was seriously concerned about chocolate until 1164mgc clearly placed mixed drinks on the plate. Chocolate milk – dairy, chocolate mouse – dairy or protein, chocolate pie, cake, or candy would checker the plate like an expensive dessert servered with eye appeal.


June 4th, 2011
2:51 pm

Ga Dawg has it right. Get rid of the processed crap and eat what you can grow, gather, or hunt and walah – you wont be fat! Plate or pyramid won’t make a difference. If what you’re eating comes all packaged up and was made in a warehouse somewhere – it’s not real food and is not what your body wants.


June 4th, 2011
3:50 pm

To clarify something: The food plate was not created by Michelle Obama. She merely presented the idea to the public, along with the Surgeon General and Sec of Agriculture. It is the U.S. Dept of Agriculture that has changed to the food plate from the food pyramid.

What we eat is very important when it comes to health and body weight. Exercise is important too of course. What I have found is that if I exercise too much, I just eat more calories and my overall weight does not change. To stay healthy, one must eat right AND exercise. Both are important, and if we exercise we cannot think, oh, it is now ok for me to eat anything I want. Check this out:


June 4th, 2011
7:11 pm

The Food Pyramid or MyPlate will make no difference

Obesity is not the fault of the overweight person or animal In fact, it is almost impossible to lose weight in the USA due to Food Chemicals.

The food has been legally poisoned with chemicals and this is proven by a European filmmaker

A filmmaker has shown how to reverse weight gain with a diabetes diet for NON diabetics in 10 countries and the DRUG MAKERS HID THE STORY

The diet reverses the damage from Food chemicals and causes weight loss

If you cannot lose weight it is not your fault

Iman Azol

June 4th, 2011
10:51 pm

Stop eating cereal crap, especially processed cereal crap, and stick to meat and vegetables. The human body needs protein, minerals, vitamins, a little fat for organ and neural development, and a minimum of crap that metabolizes straight to sugar–grass seed and potatoes.

Athletes have known this for decades, but the USDA has one goal: To sell the grain produced by subsidized farmers.

Diabetes is caused or aggravated by sugar. Sugar comes from metabolizing carbs.

Do yourself a favor and eat a steak and some broccoli. Feed the bread to the birds.

Country Led By Idiots

June 5th, 2011
6:03 am

Seriously, do you really think this change is promote a healthier lifestyle? I feel my IQ dropping just looking at it. Now a days when 90% of the kids have never even seen a pig, cow, or chicken; do you really think this little picture pie graph is going to help them choose better food to eat? If you want to change something, start with the parents, they are the one letting their kids run the show when they should be. It is easier to let a kid eat what he/she wants and sit in front of a computer playing on facebook, or a videogame. Hell, parents are getting more on facebook as well ignoring their family and their eating habbits as well. This idea is just a waste of time and more importantly money that could have gone elsewhere. This country is led by idiots.


June 5th, 2011
1:37 pm

The USDA does not now, nor has it ever in the past, determined what most parents put on a child’s plate, or picked up at the drive-thru window. It does not matter what graphic is used so long as convenience and cost primarily determine grocery and eating habits. Most college-aged young adults could not creat a balanced meal from non-packaged ingredients if you paid them. What are ‘their’ kids going to be eating?

Come on people!

June 5th, 2011
8:43 pm

We live in a world surrounded by visual media, the amount increasing more and more each year. Wouldn’t it be logical, therefore, to use graphics to relay something of this sort?

Nutrition isn’t a complicated thing: depending on your activity level, you may need more or less of certain nutrients. Some people enjoy a 50-25-25 meal plan (50% calories from carbohydrates, 25 % from protein, and 25% from fat), or a 40-30-20 meal plan (40 % calories from carbohydrates, 30 % from protein, and 20 % from fat). A person needs a 3,500 calorie deficit to burn a pound of fat, and should incorporate both strength and cardiovascular training to promote good body composition.

That said, using a plate to relate the basic proportions of a meal is best described by one word: practical. Infinite amounts of information is available pertaining to nutrition and health nowadays, and imposing a simple image of a carefully divided plate can be very helpful. And besides, who ever said the food plate was going to be the only piece of nutritional education we’ll be providing children in school?

Going back to the different meal plan options listed above, these would help determine the type of grain chosen (there is no magical, single volume that provides an equal amount of carbohydrates from all grains), or the type of fruit/vegetable chosen. For example, a cup of strawberries is 10 g carbohydrates, while a cup of mango is about 25 g carbohydrates. I’m sure these points will be elaborated in class, which would inspire a much more intuitive and thorough appreciation of nutrition. As a research assistant in a nutrition study, who has also lived without a crucial organ (responsible for digestion of a certain nutrient) for 92.5 % of my life, I can assure you that the education given in school years ago with the food pyramid is, well… pathetic. Considering the ineptitude of the people taught with the food pyramid, not to mention the insufficient amount of information learned by the students, is proof of its inadequacy. Clearly, in a society with altered communication modes/media, a change of format needs to be made here as well.

Catch up with the times people!

Come on people!

June 5th, 2011
9:00 pm

PS: I apologize for the grammatical errors made above… my passion for the subject affected my writing more than alcohol ever could lol.

PPS: carbohydrates don’t cause diabetes. Also, please be specific of diabetes type (there are several different types… the 2 main types are type 1 and 2… type 1 is autoimmune… you’re thinking type 2, and even still… you clearly don’t have a good grasp on the disease at all). Furthermore, having too few of carbohydrates causes too much stress on your body, and glucose levels increase. Oh, and too high of protein quantities cause glucose levels to also elevate. How do I know? The organ I lost function of by the age of 21 months was my pancreas…. like young children with heart problems, mine wasn’t caused by poor health.

And very lastly… again, I’m rambling, so excuse the poor grammar…

I blame the obesity epidemic on laziness, denial… and not being able to read nutrition labels!

Here’s what you need to keep in mind when reading them:
- calories
- fat (and type… saturated/trans)
- carbohydrates + fiber (subtract fiber from carbohydrates to learn the total amount of digestible g’s of carbs)
- protein

To apply the 50-25-25 or 50-30-20 meal plans, determine the number of calories coming from each nutrient… there are 9 calories in 1 g fat… and 4 calories in 1 g protein and 1 g carbohydrate. You’ll notice that in order to calculate the correct number of calories, you need to subtract the fiber first… otherwise, your math won’t add up to the label’s math.

Lastly, when reading labels, simplicity is always best. A simple rule of thumb: the more you can pronounce, the better it generally is. Oh, and “no sugar added” doesn’t mean it’s “sugar” free. Your body can’t tell the difference between “sugar” from fruit, etc… the difference is, the sugar in fruit also comes with vitamins and minerals, etc. Look for carbohydrates before sugar content… no sugar can help you find lower carbohydrate and/or more nutrient rich foods/beverages.

Oh, oh, oh… and before I finish lol… look at portion sizes… and follow them!

PPPS: I also agree with the “shop the outside of your grocery store as much as possible” rule… and the try to buy as locally as possible one as well…


June 6th, 2011
2:09 pm

The plate’s portions seem to be too similar to me. At first glance it almost looks like an evenly divided plate so that you would eat the same portion of everything. It would be a little better if it was a little more exaggerated or if the colors were more distinct to show differences.

I never had an issue with the food pyramid’s info. For those who didn’t know where food went (like the people who think eggs are dairy for some reason), it was a good visual of what was what.

Dr. Stoic

June 6th, 2011
4:41 pm

hmmmm… Millions of dollars in research and the result is striking! I mean really, you could have at least asked to share the UK governments Eatwell plate!

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