Most of us grew up learning about the five basic food groups and the “Food Pyramid.”  Our teachers handed us a photocopy of the Food Pyramid and informed us that this was the key to eating and staying healthy.  I remember looking at it back then and saying to myself, ‘There is no way I can eat this much.’

It really wasn’t our teachers fault, as it was all they were given to teach us.  The Food Pyramid was introduced to the public in 1992 by the United States Department of Agriculture and has been in classrooms ever since.  That is, until now.  Now that one-third of children and two-thirds of adults are overweight and diabetes is becoming more common among the same group, the USDA has retired the Food Pyramid.

They have now created the MyPlate.  A simple, plate-shaped icon that encourages Americans to consume a more plant based diet.  The concept is simple.  The new icon features five sections of what you should fill plate with, each section still representing each basic food group.  Gone are the recommended servings, instead a more basic design showcasing portion control and reminding people to make healthier food selections. 

The largest change in the new nutrition plan is the call for the reduction of grains.  On the previous Food Pyramid they were prominently featured at the bottom, the pyramid calling for six to eleven servings.  Now they should roughly be a quarter of your diet and the USDA is calling for the consumption of whole grains, not refined grain.  Fruits and some starchy vegetables also contribute to our carbohydrate intake and most tend to forget that.   

First Lady Michelle Obama is behind the change, having said at a press conference “The goal of MyPlate is to simplify nutritional information.  When it comes to eating, what’s more useful than a plate?” She asked. “It’s a quick simple way for all of us to be mindful of the foods we’re eating.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack agrees saying, “It’s an opportunity for Americans to understand quickly how to have a balanced and nutritious meal.  It’s a constant reminder as you look at your own plate whether your portion sizes are right, whether you’ve got enough fruits and vegetables on that plate.”

For more information on the new MyPlate icon and the USDA nutritional guidelines, visit

Jana Gersten

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