First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the replacement for the 19-year-old food pyramid last Thursday. Introducing: My Plate.
Not only is it more visually appealing, but My Plate eliminates some of the confusion of the old food pyramid by switching serving sizes for a visual for portion sizes.
The old food pyramid was unveiled in 1992, but nutritionists often criticized it as being too confusing. The USDA updated the pyramid in 2005, making it more vibrant, but just as confusing.
Although, according to the New York Times Mrs. Obama said “if a filled plate looks the My Plate symbol, with a lot of fruits and vegetables, ‘then we’re good, it’s as simple as that’”, there is still confusion.
The confusion comes with controversy and criticisms, and rightfully so. Firstly, every other section on My Plate is a type of food except protein, which is not a type of food, it’s a nutrient. A nutrient that can be found in most whole foods i.e. vegetables. Protein is not separate from other foods.
Secondly, the protein portion of My Plate is large. Most Americans eat too much protein as it is. If half of a meal consists of fruits and vegetables and a quarter of it consists of grain, there is sufficient protein without the need for more. Consuming even more protein from animal sources can lead to osteoporosis, kidney disease, and some cancers.
Thirdly, the glass of milk to the side of the plate is also deceiving. Should we be drinking milk with every meal? What about people who are lactose-intolerant, or who simply don’t consume dairy? The new design seems to say that dairy, and not calcium, is essential to a healthy diet. Calcium can also be found in most whole foods.
Officials say the new design is the first phase of a two-part campaign “to communicate essential dietary guidelines to consumers.” This first phase emphasizes making fruits and vegetables half of a plate. The second part of the campaign will focus on smaller portions and drinking water instead of sugary beverages.
While portion control is important My Plate offers a guideline with portions skewed towards meat and dairy and away from fruits and vegetables.
Many will see the My Plate design, along with its website and other educational materials, as a step towards helping Americans eat healthier, but this will lead to more uncertainty and frustration about the best ways to eat healthy.
What do you think about My Plate?