MyPyramid to MyPlate: New Food Icon is Unveiled In Washington, DC

myplateIt’s official, MyPyramid is now MyPlate.  I was on hand today for the big unveiling of the nation’s new food icon by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Surgeon General  Regina Benjamin and First Lady Michelle Obama.

IMG_0773For many of us, we knew a plate was coming. So it was no surprise that a plate-shaped symbol was pushing aside the oft-maligned pyramd.  The poor MyPyramid of 2005 just never caught on, and I’m afraid that USDA lost some luster as a nutrition education leader with that misstep.  Even though, it’s unfair to blame the multi-colored pyramid for America’s obesity problem — as you’ll hear some people claim.

With today’s unveiling, I think the agency gained new respect and its efforts were surely propelled by the presence of the esteemed FLOTUS – who was incredibly elegant and well-spoken (as always) today at the Washington, DC event.

She gave the new MyPlate a strong endorsement:

“This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating and as a mom, I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country.  When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work, we’re already asked to be chef, a referee, a cleaning crew.  So it’s tough to be a nutritionist, too.  But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. As long as they’re half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden.  That’s how easy it is.”

Simplicity seemed to be the prevailing message today.  The new MyPlate was frequently described as …

  • an easy-to-understand visual cue
  • uncomplicated
  • simple, actionable advice

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Yes, that’s what we need.  People are just so overwhelmed with complex, often conflicting messages.  No wonder they’re confused.

We need to make it easy, and we need to give people the confidence that it’s doable.  I  really like the plate symbol because that’s the point of consumption.   We make choices one meal at a time.  So let’s put the focus back on mealtime.   People eat food, not pyramids.  They literally need to know what to put on their plates.

myplate 006I also like the idea that USDA will be focusing on one message at a time — that’s another reason people get overwhelmed and do nothing.  First up is the message:  “Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables.”   That’s a tremendous call-to-action — it’s a simple message than people can understand, and again, it’s focused on the plate.   There’s a schedule on ChooseMyPlate.gov on how USDA will roll out additional messages so people can focus on changing one habit at a time.  I like that.

The major messages include:
  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals and choose foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

To change habits, people need concrete, actionable ideas (and it needs to be enjoyable, so glad that’s a message!).  I think this approach is going to get us closer to changing behaviors.   I also loved to hear that USDA is going to put greater emphasis on social media to help educate the public. Bravo.

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As registered dietitians and bloggers, we’re here to help.  Here’s what RDs had to say about the new MyPlate:

Bonnie Taub Dix: USA Today  
Gloria Tsang: HealthCastle  
Toby Amidor:  Food Network’s Healthy Eats
Elizabeth Ward: Expect the Best
Lisa Young: The Portion Teller
Regan Jones: Professional Palate
Liz Weiss, Janice Bissex:  Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen
Alysa Bajenaru: Inspired RD
Serena  Ball:  Teaspoon Communications
Shelley Rael: Eat Well, Live Well, Be Well
Marisa Moore:  Marisa Moore Nutrition
Rachel Begun: The Gluten-Free RD
Katie Hamm: Healthy and Happy Hour
Elana Natker: A Sprinkle of Sage
Judy Doherty:  Food and Health Communications
Leslie Schilling: Born to Eat
Chere Bork:  Taste Life, With Chere
Cathy Leman: NutriFit
Danielle Omar 
Aarti Batavia    
Marie Spano: Performance Nutrition 
Carol Plotkin: On Nutrition
Jessica Levinson: Nutritioulicious
Penny Wilson: Eating for Performance
Heather Mangieri: Nutrition Checkup
Georgia Kostas
Kati Mora: Around the Plate
Emma Stirling: The Scoop on Nutrition    
Nicole German: Nicole’s Nutrition  
Annette Maggi:  Nutrition Outlook   
Kelley Biondolillo:  The Better Bitty Bite   
Susan Weiner: Susan Weiner Nutrition  
Nour El-Zibdeh: Practical Nutrition  
Carol Ireton-Jones
International Food Information Council:  Food Insight

myplate 004Registered dietitian Kathleen Zelman, director of nutrition for WebMD, spoke at a media briefing following the MyPlate reveal –discussing the plans WebMD has to implement the MyPlate guidelines.  Acclaimed chef Marcus Samuelsson also addressed the crowd, representing the culinary community’s efforts to help.

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In the media briefing room, USDA set up various examples to bring MyPlate to life.

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