Is "MyPlate" on your table?

At the beginning of June, a new nutrition initiative was introduced with a simple, consumer-friendly image called MyPlate.  MyPlate is a symbol that looks like a dinner plate.  The plate is divided into four sections (see image below).  Two of the sections are filled with fruits and vegetables, one contains protein and the fourth contains grains.  Beside the plate is a small circle, which represents low-fat dairy. 

MyPlate replaces the Food Guide Pyramid/MyPyramid with the intention of educating consumers on the new 2010 USDA Dietary GuidelinesThe major messages included on the MyPlate website are:

  • 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.

Here are a few of my thoughts on MyPlate that I’d like to highlight:

The Positives:

  • It’s simple and easy to understand for both adults and children.  The Food Guide Pyramid taught us about the food groups and now MyPlate is teaching us how to arrange those food groups onto our plate. 
  • It may help some with weight control.  I have used an image similar to MyPlate for many years to help people successfully control their portions to lose weight.  So, I am hoping that this new image can be a good starting point for anyone who is looking to gain more control over their weight. 
  • It seems to have a greater emphasis on fruits and vegetables than the Food Guide Pyramids.

 The Negatives:

  • The size of the plate you eat off of affects portion size and MyPlate does not talk about plate size.  I feel that, generally, a 9 inch plate is appropriate.
  • The actual icon itself does not distinguish what the healthiest choices for grains, proteins and fats are.  Information provided on MyPlate’s website does encourage making at least half of your grain choices whole-grain and there is information on eating lean protein and healthy fats, but you have to dig deeper into the educational materials on the site to get more information.
  • The protein category can be confusing for some people (this category was formerly the meat/meat alternative group).  Protein is not actually a food like the other categories are; it is a nutrient and it is found in many foods including foods that have their own spot on the icon like whole grains (ex. quinoa) and low-fat dairy.  Again, when you explore the MyPlate website, you can obtain more information on the “protein” category to help in guiding your choices.

Overall, I think MyPlate is a great tool and I am impressed with MyPlate’s website as it provides extensive details on how to use the plate, so check it out!

Karen McPartland, RD, CSSD

The Princeton Longevity Center