Dietary Guidelines: Progressing from Pyramid to Plate

Dietary Guidelines: Progressing from Pyramid to Plate
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MyPlate represents a significant improvement over the USDA Food Guide Pyramid.

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The pyramid has been replaced by the plate. Thursday, June 2, 2011, the First Lady unveiled the federal government’s new food icon, MyPlate, to serve as a reminder to help consumers make healthier food choices.

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture: “For Americans to lead happy, productive lives, it helps to stay healthy, active, and fit. It’s really pretty simple. Choose a healthier plate, and balance it with exercise. It all comes down to the choices we make. That’s why I’m excited to introduce to you USDA’s new food icon, MyPlate—a simple reminder to make healthy food choices. MyPlate symbolizes mealtime and the food groups:  fruits, grains, vegetables, protein, and dairy. A healthy plate for every meal, and what we eat matters. Overweight and obesity rates are at dangerously high levels, and the Obama administration has worked to support Americans who want to improve their health and nutrition. MyPlate is a departure from the food pyramid you’re used to seeing. It’s an easy-to-understand visual that shows how to build a healthy meal based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for all of Americans. And if you want to learn more about a healthy diet, you can visit choosemyplate.gov to get messages, tools, and how-to materials about healthy eating. This website will equip consumers with information on staying healthy, and tips on balancing calories, foods to increase, and foods to reduce. I hope you’re as excited as I am about MyPlate, and the other resources to help Americans make healthy choices at choosemyplate.gov. Next time you sit down for a meal, before you eat, think about what’s on your plate. In the months and years ahead, we hope that MyPlate becomes your plate.”

And indeed, which do you think is more helpful in terms of figuring out what to eat when you sit down at a meal. This, or this?

Nutritionists have expressed concern that Americans might equate the protein group with meat (or think that dairy doesn’t include soy milk), but the USDA defines the protein group as including beans and peas, soy products, nuts and seeds, and specifically highlights beans and peas as unique foods, as they count towards both protein and the vegetable group. It’s like a two-for-one deal.

And I don’t know if you caught it, but if you rewind, our Secretary of Agriculture appears to be saying next time you sit down for a meal, before you eat, make sure you include in your diet a centerpiece of fruit—and, random bottles of pharmaceutical drugs.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Karen Green via Flickr

The pyramid has been replaced by the plate. Thursday, June 2, 2011, the First Lady unveiled the federal government’s new food icon, MyPlate, to serve as a reminder to help consumers make healthier food choices.

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture: “For Americans to lead happy, productive lives, it helps to stay healthy, active, and fit. It’s really pretty simple. Choose a healthier plate, and balance it with exercise. It all comes down to the choices we make. That’s why I’m excited to introduce to you USDA’s new food icon, MyPlate—a simple reminder to make healthy food choices. MyPlate symbolizes mealtime and the food groups:  fruits, grains, vegetables, protein, and dairy. A healthy plate for every meal, and what we eat matters. Overweight and obesity rates are at dangerously high levels, and the Obama administration has worked to support Americans who want to improve their health and nutrition. MyPlate is a departure from the food pyramid you’re used to seeing. It’s an easy-to-understand visual that shows how to build a healthy meal based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for all of Americans. And if you want to learn more about a healthy diet, you can visit choosemyplate.gov to get messages, tools, and how-to materials about healthy eating. This website will equip consumers with information on staying healthy, and tips on balancing calories, foods to increase, and foods to reduce. I hope you’re as excited as I am about MyPlate, and the other resources to help Americans make healthy choices at choosemyplate.gov. Next time you sit down for a meal, before you eat, think about what’s on your plate. In the months and years ahead, we hope that MyPlate becomes your plate.”

And indeed, which do you think is more helpful in terms of figuring out what to eat when you sit down at a meal. This, or this?

Nutritionists have expressed concern that Americans might equate the protein group with meat (or think that dairy doesn’t include soy milk), but the USDA defines the protein group as including beans and peas, soy products, nuts and seeds, and specifically highlights beans and peas as unique foods, as they count towards both protein and the vegetable group. It’s like a two-for-one deal.

And I don’t know if you caught it, but if you rewind, our Secretary of Agriculture appears to be saying next time you sit down for a meal, before you eat, make sure you include in your diet a centerpiece of fruit—and, random bottles of pharmaceutical drugs.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Karen Green via Flickr

Doctor's Note

Be sure to check out all my other videos on dietary guidelines and industry influence.

For more context, be sure to check out my associated blog post: Dietary Guideline Graphics: From the Food Pyramid to My Plate, Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, and PCRM’s Power Plate.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

28 responses to “Dietary Guidelines: Progressing from Pyramid to Plate

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    1. I’ve just been diagnosed with auto immune gastritis. Luckily, as I’m primarily vegan I had been taking a B12 supplement that dissolved under the tongue so my B12 levels are great… Iron not good though. I started eating this way to combat my ill health and chronic fatigue. I plan to continue on especially now. Auto immune disease seems to run in my family. I will start iron infusion in January. Should I change any elements of my diet and is there likely to be an iron supplements in the future that can be absorbed even without the co factor the stomach would normally coat the iron in so it can be absorbed in the digestive tract? Love your work!

      1. Hi Sandra,

        Vegan sources of non-heme iron include greens, legumes, and fortified grains. Consuming foods with vitamins A and C with the iron-rich foods can aid absorption and decrease the polyphenols and phytates found in whole grains that can inhibit iron absorption. Avoid tea (especially black), coffee, and cocoa with meals, because polyphenols can also inhibit iron absorption.

        Good luck,

        Julia

  1. That is SERIOUSLY odd. What message are they trying to send/hide there? If you eat a balanced Plate, then you will need to take your daily medication to fix things your diet can’t? Hmmmmm.

    1. They don’t look like supplements. Yes, they are colorful capsules of drugs, without labels! Who would set up the scene like that, and why? It’s not accident. What that says is so strange and scary for us.

  2. Dear Dr. Greger I have been diagnosed with Ulcerated Colitisand treated with Asacol 5.7g/day Is there a reason to hope that a plant based nutrition can treat this condition without aggravating it farther? Benjamin

  3. Dr. Greger-

    First question: is there any less harm to our cells/bodies if the meats that we eat are certified organic, grain fed, hormone free?

    Second question: one of your ‘meat is bad for you’ graphics illustrate that it is the chemical pollutants in the grass that the cows eat that make the meat more toxic…well isn’t that same thing true for vegetables? The same environmental effects and toxins impact the vegetables as well as the grass that the cows are eating?

    Specifically, what is wrong with eating beef and chicken that has NO hormone or chemical toxins used ? If one were to eat meat what would the cleanest/best meat be to eat?

    We have used organically raised/fed, hormone free chickens to make broth for treatment of colds etc. with great success. After watching your videos, we are now prepared to eat strictly vegetarian but would like to know the answers to questions above first.

    Thanks for the ‘enlightening’ information!

  4. Dr Greger, do you have a recommendation for the percentage of the 4 vegan food groups (Grains, Legumes, Veg, Fruit) we should be eating? e.g 50% veg, 30% grains etc. Or how many servings of each we need?
    I saw something that said vegans need 8 servings of grains (4 cups) but only 4 of veg (1 cup), that seems backwards to me. Cheers, Lexy

    1. I think the general recommendation is to eat complex carbohydrate based meals (brown rice, whole wheat, beans, sweet potatoes, etc) with other veggies mixed in and fruits to snack on as well. The easiest way to follow a whole foods plant based lifestyle is not to regiment it.

    2. Some groups focus entirely on fruits and non-starchy veggies and have excellent outcomes. Grains are relatively low in nutrients compared to fruit and veggies. I try to limit whole grains to 2 cups a day and pile on the phyto-nutrient rich alternatives. Dr Joel Fuhrman’s website discusses this approach.

  5. Hi Dr. Gregor. My 4 year old pre-K student will be taught about MyPlate this year. His teacher knows our dietary preferences. What is the best way to help her present an unbiased view of MyPlate? She has agreed to teach that the protein section includes animal products as well as legumes. I’m also concerned about the dairy section. Any suggestions? I would love to be able to send her a link to education regarding plant based diet, which would you recommend in this situation? Thank you so much for your work.

    1. AnnaLynne: Some suggestions for you: 1) Look up the PCRM Power Plate. (Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine) PCRM came up with their power plate first and gave it to the government. You know what happened with the suggestion. But maybe showing the Power Plate would be helpful? Here is an article about the Power Plate which I think might help: http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/pplate/why-power-plate

      2) Below is a post that I often share with people who are looking into feeding their kids a healthy diet. You are already doing so, but maybe some of the references below would provide the information you are looking for.

      3) The “dairy” cup on the government’s “My Plate” is indeed worrisome. As you probably know, there is a TON of data showing how unhealthy dairy is. It’s hard for me to know what might be most helpful for you. Just in case you aren’t aware, here is the NutritionFacts topic page on dairy: https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/dairy/ (The text in super-light color that’s really hard to read – those are links that might be helpful). Also, note that PCRM has been trying to deal with the dairy problem. I remember reading some articles about it, but do not have something in easy reach. But you might root around on their website.

      Hope this helps!
      *************************************
      Post to help people looking to feed their kids a healthy diet:

      You are on the right track and doing what is best for your child. I have some resources that should help you get started on being able to bolster your case. Here is a post that I often share with people:

      First, note the following quote from a position paper from the ADA: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
      .
      Also note this quote from Dr. Greger’s book, How Not To Die, page 411-412: “Vitamin B12-fortified plant-based diets can offer health benefits for all stages of the life cycle. [When] Dr. Benjamin Spock, the most esteemed pediatrician of all time,…died at ninety-four, he advocated children be raised on a plant-based diet with no exposure to meat or dairy products. … ‘Children who grow up getting their nutrition from plant foods have a tremendous health advantage and are much less likely to develop health problems as the years go by.’ ”
      .
      But having said that, there are some ‘gotchas’ when it comes to young children and whole plant food diets (just like there are gotchas with children and any diet). So, it really is worth spending some time reviewing accurate, evidence-based information on the topic. Here’s some ideas for specifics:
      .
      PCRM is the Physician’s Committee For Responsible Medicine, headed up by Dr. Barnard. Dr. Greger has mentioned Dr. Barnard and PCRM favorably in posts and his book. Here are two articles from PCRM that I think contains the type of information you are looking for:
      http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/vegetarian-diets-for-children-right-from-the-start
      http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/info_children.pdf
      http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/info_advchild.pdf
      .
      I’ll also refer you to a site called the Vegetarian Resource Group, VRG. Their articles are usually very well researched and Dr. Greger has mentioned VRG favorably at least once. VRG has a whole section on kids on their website.
      Here’s the main page. Scroll down to the Nutrition section:
      http://www.vrg.org/family/kidsindex.htm
      This is one of my favorite articles on that page. which starts with babies and goes on up:
      http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/kids.php
      .
      Finally, I *highly* recommend getting a book called, Becoming Vegan, Express Edition. That book is a great over-all reference book for the whole family. It also has an entire chapter on children and what to feed. It also includes an age-based chart where you can get ideas on how much of each of the main nutrients your child needs at various ages. The authors of that book have been guest bloggers here on NutritionFacts. They are very well respected and extremely knowledgeable about nutrition science and how it applies to all ages.
      .
      I really hope this helps you to get your people on board. It’s not just about respecting the decisions you make as a parent. Consuming animal products and junk food puts your child at risk. It’s just not OK for people to push that on you.

  6. Thanks for your question AnnaLynne,

    I believe that the current website has many summaries and videos on specific topics about health and certain food groups that can help. For example, for dairy, you can find the summary here – which can then be explored to look at specific evidence. Alternatively, you can see PCRMs link.

    However, if you do wish to present a summary, I suggest presenting the AND 2016 Position Statement, as well as Hever et al (2016) guide to a plant based diet.

    Hope this answer helps.

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