Lemond Nutrition Articles

MyPlate: A Nutrition Educator's Perspective

By Angela Lemond, RDN, CSP, LD // Jun 03, 2011

Goodbye, Food Guide Pyramid.  Mr. Pyramid, you've had a good run, but your place is now inside the history books - we appreciate your efforts in keeping Americans healthy.  There's a new graphic in town that's gonna try to improve on your healthy diet messaging.

Well, I'm hear Kingsville, Texas on a very interesting food investigation (future post!) so I was unable to join the news conference yesterday on the unveiling of the new USDA's MyPlate, which is the new icon that replaces the MyPyramid graphic. 

The MyPlate was rolled out with the intention of educating the new 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines (just like the MyPyramid attempted in the past guidelines). The key messages here are:

Introducing MyPlate - the USDA MyPyramid replacement.

Balancing Calories

  • Enjoy your food but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions
Foods to Increase
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Make at least half of your grains whole
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1% milk)
Foods to Reduce
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals ? and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

PROS: The MyPlate graphic reminds me of the Idaho Plate Method that has been out for years.  In the past, I have used it with my adult weight management patients and it works very well.  In fact, I used to give out compartment plates to them so they could practice loading their plate appropriately.  This visual helped patients not only eat the right types of foods, but give them an idea of portion size for each food group.  So this MyPlate visual is something I really appreciate as a clinician, and one that I believe will translate better to consumers.

I also like how the USDA has produced some printable aids that further allow consumers to understand and put the MyPlate into practice.  Their Let's Eat For the Health of It provides practical tips that families can use.  The 10 Tip Series is an educational set that delves deeper into the key messages of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.  They can be viewed online or printed for future reference.  I am pleased that the Get a Personalized Plan feature was not pulled off the new website, which is now http://www.choosemyplate.com/.  I used this feature with the old MyPyramid plan and it really helps people see how much of each food group they need for proper nutrition.  This personalized information can be integrated into the new graphic as well.

 
CONS:  I had hoped that the focus on vegetables would translate into half the visual plate and place the fruit portion on the side like the milk.  Again, this is how the Idaho Plate Method's visual had it and it looks like more food, maximizes vegetable intake and it shows consumers that they could get their sweet treat after a meal using fresh fruit.
 
Just like the other food guidance graphics, consumers need to know that this guidance is for the average American without special nutritional needs.  It may not be completely appropriate for people with increased calorie needs (athletes, those dealing with injury or disease) or that are on special diets.  The good news is that dietitians can put together custom plans that can assist with special populations.
 
It will be interesting to see how MyPlate translates to consumers.  I plan to do a little sample study among my own patient population to see if this new graphic really does help them eat better.  What do you think?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Filed Under: MyPlate, USDA Guidelines

Comments

Jackie // Thursday Jul 07, 2011

hi Angela!
As an almost RD, and long time personal trainer, I too have always advised half plate of veggies. As a matter of fact, as I do so with my own family and clients, advise to cover the whole plate with leafy greens, a few other colorful veggies, then as a salad topper, for instance, throw a serving of brown rice on top and sprinkle with chicken. It is certainly a way to still get the "plate of food" but more veg!! :) And I know that it amounts to more than than half plate full of veg. --love your blog!

Angela Lemond, RD, CSP, LD // Thursday Jul 07, 2011

Great plate ideas, Jackie. Thanks for the comments!!

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