USDA Scraps Food Pyramid for Plate

Move over food pyramid. Make way for the plate.

The food pyramid that has been the standard for healthy eating for almost 20 years has been replaced by a new icon aimed at helping Americans adopt healthier eating habits as part of the governmental push to tackle the obesity crisis.

First Lady, Michelle Obama, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin unveiled MyPlate, at a news conference Thursday.

The new design features a dinner plate cut into four sections – red for fruit, green for vegetables, orange for grains and purple for protein – with a separate section resembling a cup on the side for dairy.

It’s no surprise that the recommendation is to make half of your daily food intake fruits and vegetables.

Grains have seen a reduction in terms of quantity. In a nutshell – 75 percent of daily food intake should be from plant-based foods. However, the question of daily caloric intake, portion sizes, fat intake and energy expenditure are not represented.

While MyPlate is meant to be a teaching tool for young children, it also serves a value for adults. But I’m curious to know who actually sits on the committees or boards that create and review these diagrams and their message?

As a health care provider who spends a good amount of time educating the public, MyPlate is really lacking the ability to relay the science to consumers in an effective manner, as did its predecessor, the food pyramid.

One of the biggest challenges it fails to meet is getting all of our food information synchronized.

If dietary recommendations, serving sizes on food labels and nutrition facts panels were all in sync with each other (for example, very few people actually need to eat 2000 calories a day – so get rid of that calorie comparison) – perhaps we could move toward educating the public without the mixed messages.

The effort and attention on obesity and childhood obesity is much needed, but this icon falls short on practical application.

I’m not convinced MyPlate will improve Americans’ eating habits because personal responsibility is still a large part of the battle. But hopefully, the larger initiative will help spark the public’s interest in learning to make healthier choices.

Felicia D. Stoler, DCN, MS, RD, FACSM is a doctorally trained registered dietitian, exercise physiologist, TV personality and expert consultant in disease prevention, wellness and healthy living. She is the author of "Living Skinny in Fat Genes: The Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Feel Great." She hosted TLC's groundbreaking series "Honey We're Killing the Kids!" Become a fan of Felicia on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or visit her website