This is a great improvement over the pyramid. Given the theme of this blog, you could probably guess I'd like the plate. Yes, some of us want to go beyond it & do even better. But a great many people see healthy nutrition as simply too complicated for them to manage. The new plate presents its message in a totally accessible way, and I am hopeful more people can benefit from it than ever did from the pyramid.
Following are responses to some specific aspects of the plate. For your reference, here's a link to the new icon: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/.
- Simplified design - People eat off a plate, not a pyramid, so this is vastly more functional.
- Clear basic message - Most certainly, there are important nutrition concepts left out of the basic picture. However, if everyone in the US did only what was obvious from the picture, obesity would decline. Perhaps I'll devote a blog to an analysis of that, but the point is - this plate is a huge improvement over plates in front of most Americans.
- Good use of take home messages - My favorite is "make half your grains whole." It's a carry-over from the pyramid, and one I've used in my own life & with clients. I'm also glad to see them recommend low-fat & non-fat dairy.
- Soy milk included in the dairy section - thank you, USDA, for recognizing vegan & lactose-intolerant people everywhere!
- Includes starchy vegetables with non-starchy - hence, you can fill 1/2 your plate with mashed potatoes and be in compliance ... but how is that any different than 1/2 a plate of pasta? Pasta & potatoes are roughly the same when it comes to calorie density & fiber content. (1 cup enriched cooked spaghetti = 220 calories; 2.5 g fiber; 1 cup mashed potatoes made with whole milk & no butter = 174 calories, 3.1 g fiber).
- Includes fruit juice with fruit - Juice is a pet peeve of mine, so I will try not to rant. 1 cup of orange juice gives you 112 calories and 0.5 g of fiber. Whereas, a cup of orange sections has 80 calories and 3 g fiber. Add to that the fact that most people drink more than a cup of juice in a sitting, and we begin to see how juice can be such a source of added calories in our diets --- especially, since most view it as good for them!
- Interactive website - you can click on the plate portions and learn more about each group. You also get to see pictures of what serving size of selected foods looks like. Unfortunately, not everyone has internet access. Since poverty & obesity are so entwined, many of those without access will also be the ones who could most benefit from the messages.
- Lean meat recommendation takes too many clicks. I'm glad to see the recommendation for lean meats/protein sources, but I'd like to have seen it on the home page, right beside the low-fat dairy recommendation.