Fall 2011
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Moving from Pyramid to Plate


Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) introduced a new graphic called My Plate intended to aid individuals and families in making healthier choices at meal time.

The food pyramid, or MyPyramid, is a refreshed version of the original food pyramid designed by the USDA in the 1990s which was outdated and complicated to use. Rather than recommending specific amounts of foods, the new MyPlate graphic offers simple, visual cues linked to the familiar mealtime symbol of the plate.

"MyPlate is similar to the New American Plate introduced several years ago by the American Institute for Cancer Research," said Lauren Oliver, clinical dietitian with the Texas Center for the Treatment and Prevention of Childhood Obesity at Dell Children's Medical Center. "Research has consistently found that a predominantly plant-based diet may reduce the risk of chronic disease, through both cancer-protective compounds found in plant-based foods and improved weight management. The fiber and water in plant foods gives a feeling of fullness without supplying a lot of calories."

The simplified My Plate message helps kids be mindful of what they put on their plates at the dinner table at home and in the school lunch line. The USDA's first challenge to Americans is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. If you pair this with lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains, you will be on the right track for a healthy diet.

"As important as what you're putting on your plate is the size of plate you're using," Oliver said. "Average plate size has grown significantly in recent years – today, some restaurants serve entrees on 13-inch plates. I recommend adults use no larger than a 9-inch plate, but young kids can use an even smaller plate, like a salad plate, for their meals. This will ensure that portion sizes are age-appropriate, and it will appear more appetizing than small portions on a larger plate."

A downside to MyPlate is that it doesn't address snacks, fats or sodium. And while MyPlate helps all of us take a snapshot of each meal we're choosing, it's essential to look at the bigger picture of eating. Instead of simply reviewing one meal, consider how you're eating throughout an entire day or week.

Consumers can still access personalized daily dietary recommendations by age and gender on the USDA's ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Visit the site to learn more about the new MyPlate icon and for more detailed information to share with your family.

Additional Resources

Food Pyramid to Food Plate

Good Health for Kids is produced by Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.