US replaces food pyramid with nutrition plate


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The US Department of Agriculture recently unveiled the long awaited replacement for the food pyramid, the triangle of nutrition introduced back in 1992. And I, for one, think it’s a great change!

The CBS Evening News reported, “With as much drama as the Department of Agriculture could muster and with help from the First Lady, America got a new symbol for good nutrition. Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States: ‘What’s more useful than a plate? What’s more simple than a plate?’”

And I, for one, couldn’t agree more.

The New York Times reports, “The plate is split into four sections, for fruit, vegetables, grains and protein. A smaller circle sits beside it for dairy products.”

The Department of Agriculture has created a superb website, which elaborates on the guidance reflected in the plate’s design. The site includes great tip sheets for parents.

USA Today reports, “Robert Post, deputy director for the US Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, says the symbol is part of a healthy eating initiative that will convey seven key messages from the government’s dietary guidelines: Enjoy food but eat less; avoid oversized portions; make half your plate fruits and vegetables; drink water instead of sugary drinks; switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk; compare sodium in foods; and make at least half your grains whole grains.”

The Washington Post reports, “Some nutritionists would like to see more detail on USDA’s plate, which fails to direct consumers away from slathering their vegetables in butter or lard.”

Harvard University nutrition researcher, Walter Willett “took issue with the glass of milk on the side. ‘There really is no scientific basis’ for encouraging three servings of dairy a day,” Willett said.

“Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest said that ‘one icon is not going to change the way Americans eat.’ Consumers also need affordable healthy options at schools and restaurants,” Wootan added.

Nevertheless, I think the new symbol will be much more helpful for healthcare professionals and the patients we advise that the former symbols were. The kids I’ve shared it with all get it and understand it in an instant.

The real question is whether they and their parents will follow it.

The AP reports, “The new plate is simply guidance for those looking to improve their diet, however. It’s supposed to be a suggestion, not a direction, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.” He “said the new round chart shows that nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated.”

I’d agree with him on that.

Bloomberg News reports, “The program complements the first lady’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign targeting childhood obesity, the rate of which almost doubled from 1988 to 2006, according to a study last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. A separate report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 17 percent of children ages 2 to 19 were obese.”

The Christian Science Monitor reported, “The new chart leaves out a couple of elements seen in recent years on the pyramid: A small separate category for fats and oils, and an image of a person climbing (on the old pyramid) to symbolize physical exercise alongside eating.”

But, given the pros and cons, I think this one is a winner.

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