Saturday, June 4, 2011

Food Pyramid is GONE! MyPlate is IN!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that the food pyramid that has represented how much of what we need to eat a day for over 20 years has been replaced by the new plate graphic shown to the left.

The original food pyramid was released in 1992 and included the four food groups stacked in the shape of you guessed it, a pyramid. This pyramid showed the number of recommended servings a person should eat from each group in a day. The bottom and biggest part of the pyramid shows the foods that should make up most of the diet -- breads, cereals and grains. The smallest part contains Fat at the top of the pyramid. In 2005 the food pyramid was revised to six food groups and included a person walking up steps on the side of the pyramid to emphasize the need for daily exercise.

Most nutrition experts say they are glad to see both versions of the pyramid go. They say they were complicated, and sometimes gave the wrong ideas about certain foods.

"The food pyramid has been described by many as difficult to understand and as the obesity rates would suggest, has gone largely unheeded by many," said Martin Binks, clinical director of Binks Behavioral Health in Durham, N.C.

"The original icon was a bit misleading, e.g., all fats are bad," said Sara Bleich, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. "The [new pyramid] required consumers to go online in order to maximize effectiveness of the food guide."

MyPlate was introduced by first lady Michelle Obama, the Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and has four colored sections representing fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins. The smaller circle next to the plate represents dairy products.

"MyPlate is a truly simple, powerful visual cue to help people adopt healthy eating habits at meal times," said Vilsack.

"It answers the simple question, 'What should my plate look like at any given meal?'" said Baltimore nutritionist Monica Reinagel, author of "Nutrition Diva's Secrets for a Healthy Diet."

On MyPlate's website, the USDA makes several important nutrition points that anyone wanting to lose weight and keep it off needs to learn. Eat smaller portions, make at least half the plate fruits and vegetables and avoid sugary drinks and snacks. Nutrition experts believe a plate is a good choice compared to the old pyramid because it is easier to understand. Experts say the new campaign makes the right points and the plate makes it easier for people to understand the importance of eating healthier food and also less of it. .

"The main message should be that half your plate should really be fruits and vegetables," said Kristin Kirkpatrick, wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic.

"Fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber, essential vitamins and photochemical, which are cancer-fighting substances," said Susan Levin, director of nutrition education at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C. Levin has worked with the USDA previously on its revised U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

"Portion size, even of healthy foods, plays a major role in controlling weight and reducing the risk of a number of chronic diseases," said Marisa Moore, national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "In counseling, I recommend using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate. Research shows that using a smaller plate -- or glass -- can help reduce the total calories consumed in a meal."

The First Lady says the new tool goes hand-in-hand with her "Let's Move" campaign designed to reduce childhood obesity by teaching better nutrition and exercise habits to children.

"I almost never have a conversation with a patient or consumer without mentioning the need for physical activity, and it's often the missing 'nutrient' in people's lifestyles," said Keith Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y. "It's hard to be optimally healthy without physical activity, and it can really be a game-changer in terms of what and how much you should eat."

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