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USDA replaces Food Pyramid with new "MyPlate" guidelines


it's a bit better than the pyramid, but that's not saying much. it still needs a lot of improvement.

my thoughts:
- there's no mention of healthful fats.
- they should specify that the majority of your vegetables should be of the *non-starchy* or fibrous variety because this country is on potato & corn overload.
- there's nothing about portion or plate sizes.
- i'd like to see the "grains" portion even smaller.
- i'm also on the fence about the way it sends the "eat fruit with every meal" message, particularly because i *know* that will translate to sugary applesauce or fruit juice for a lot of people.

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  1. There is a lot more information there, but it's more aimed at industry. I'm sure The NRA (no not that one) will put out a new nutrition guide for chefs in their ManageFirst program.

    There is a lot more here: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelin...

    1. If we scrapped the whole government mandated healthy eating thing, I'd bet we'd be able to shave off at least 20% from the federal budget ...

      12 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        You're being facetious, right? Since the entire budget of the FDA and USDA combined is about 4% of the total federal budget, and that would cover a whole lot more than healthy eating programs.

        1. re: MelMM

          On Tuesday, the GOP majority on the House Appropriations Committee approved a 2012 spending plan that directs the Agriculture Department to ditch the first new nutritional standards in 15 years proposed for school breakfasts and lunches. The lawmakers say meals containing more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy will cost an additional $7 billion over five years — money they say the country can ill afford in difficult economic times.

          The cost of more nutritious lunches for millions of school children over 5 years = the cost of 12 days in iraq.

          1. re: Rmis32

            Woulda been nice if they weighed what healthcare costs due to nutritional problems cost this country. Saving money and spending cuts are not always the same thing.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              Thanks again for watching that video cowboyardee. I'm grateful to you for that and your comments, which I'm so glad I emailed to myself so that I can read them over again some other time. It's easy for me to feel frustrated at times as I stumble around and keep dropping my flashlight.

              1. re: givemecarbs

                I'm glad you posted here. The mods removed the other little tangent before I had a chance to write it down. What was the name of the full length documentary you recommended?

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  Healing Cancer From Inside Out Mike Anderson
                  Also Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days

                  1. re: givemecarbs

                    Thanks. Healing Cancer... added to netflix queue. Try to stop me now, mods ;p

              2. re: cowboyardee

                Penny-wise and pound (LITERALLY) foolish.

                Somewhere along the line a few years ago, I came across a simpler diagram that seems wise: Imagine a round plate divided into three parallel sections by splitting the diameter in thirds. So a 9" diameter plate would have 3 imaginary stripes. The center one, the largest in volume, should be colorful, low-starch vegetables. The stripe to one side would be starch and the one to the other side, meat/poultry/seafood/dairy/fat. Obviously, you might have some of that in the form of gravy/sauce on the starch section, and other variations, but overall it provides an easy way to visualize what the proportions on the plate should be.

          2. re: ipsedixit

            yeah - those damned healthy kids are a real drain on the national economy. too bad it's a security issue, we need healthy meat to ship off to afghanistan and iraq, to protect our freedoms. which is in no way a drain on our resources........

            1. re: thew

              ita, thew. the military supports cutting junk food from schools because there IS a real problem in getting healthy recruits. however if the other special interests can override even the military then the next solution would be to have longer training camps to get people in shape before basic training. pretty sad that we are so fat we can't even "protect" ourselves.

            2. Very good points here. I don't think you can deny that fats need to be included. I too thought the grains portion was HUGE at first glance. I agree that people don't understand what is the best idea for fruit and veg. In Central PA potato is your main veg. with corn right behind. Everything is laden with sugar and fat if it was remotely healthy.

              8 Replies
              1. re: melpy

                my niece just told me today that she intends on Kraft Easy Mac as her primary food source when she goes to college because it's cheap and it tastes good. She said that if she has the money, she'll get the Velveeta mac and cheese that has bits of broccoli in it, because then it has a vegetable.

                I wept.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Sounds like you have your work cut out for you. Good luck with giving her the education she's apparently not getting at home.

                  1. re: Leepa

                    but that's what stumps me -- her mom (my sister) has lost a significant amount of weight, has arms of steel, and looks better than she's looked her entire adult life (she's never looked bad -- but she looks awesome now!). I *know* that has not come about by eating convenience-food crap....and actually KNOW that she's really changed her lifestyle habits (not just food!)....now to somehow find a way to let her know that Miss Thing hasn't been paying attention AND to see if I can't teach her a better way.

                    The point of this being, by the way -- that SOMEBODY needs to take the reins and teach this generation how to eat, because WE are going to outlive THEM at the rate they're going. Whether it's My Plate or a Pyramid or a spherical tetrahedron...we are failing to teach our children how to eat well.

                    We MUST stop obsessing over carbs and fat and calories and bacon and Dukan and South Beach and all the other b.s. that does nothing but line the pockets of Today's Greatest Diet Author.

                    I keep going back and re-reading Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food": Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants. I don't lockstep agree with all of the book -- but it's the sanest, simplest advice I've seen.

                    Why is this so difficult?

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      I don't know your niece, but my immediate reaction is that sounds like something most teenagers would say to either get a rise out of someone, or just because it's fun to exaggerate (my friends and I once wrote a logical proof for oreos counting as vegetables, including the step that Nabisco was owned by Phillip Morris, who grew tobacco, which is a plant).

                      Given your sisters relatively recent adoption of health eating practices, it's possible that your niece's grand plan is based on the freedom she's expecting to have at college and looking forward to. I ate a TON of lucky charms when I first got to college, and most college students go through similar phases, hence the Freshmen 15. The magic will wear off in a few weeks, and she move on to better food.

                      1. re: mpjmph

                        I agree. Even though I'm in my 50's, I remember being a rebellious teen on my way to college. Wouldn't listen to anyone...

                        It sounds as if sunshine's niece has been exposed to a good foundation of nutrition (good to hear) and will probably see the light after a few weeks of freedom.

                        1. re: Leepa

                          gave her my copy of Fast Food Nation, too. That'll fix her!

                        2. re: mpjmph

                          I wish I could post a fabulous update that she was yanking my chain, but the sad truth is that she wants to eat nothing but chips, fries, hamburger, pizza, and candy (candy first, please). A balanced diet is a stack of Pringles that doesn't fall over.

                          It's driving me completely insane...but WE don't eat that way, we don't let OUR offspring eat that way, and SHE is not going to eat that way as long as she's in our house, so I see more battles ahead.

                          (and I love her to death...and I wish there was some way to keep her from the Freshman 15, because she's already got at least that and she's only a senior....)

                2. Without commenting on the merits of the chart, I've often wondered if people actually look to the government to tell them how to eat. Seems to me the people who really are concerned with nutrition information seek it out from other sources, and most other people just eat what they like or what they can afford.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: inaplasticcup


                    I can't figure why they even bother with a chart or why anyone would get worked up about the thing. We know. It's just that many choose not to follow what's more or less common knowledge.

                    Really, who's the chart for? Kids? Little Jack and Jill aren't buying their own food. Adults? We already know. Aliens who just landed on Earth and are curious about our government and diet? Maybe.

                    1. re: ediblover

                      ALIENS. I think you've uncovered the caper...

                  2. Folks, we've removed a number of posts from this thread. If you want to argue about red states vs. blue states or military spending, please do so on another site -- it's off-topic for Chowhound. Thanks.

                    1. On the lighter side, the NYTimes City blog posted this "redesign" of the new plate:

                      Also of interest are some of the replies.

                      The whole thing gave me a chuckle.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: LNG212

                        Love it. And admit that, when I lived in NYC, a chocolate-dipped chocolate cone from a Mister Softee truck was a hot-weather guilty pleasure.

                      2. a couple of Hounds have raised questions about why the government even bothers to distribute this information and who even uses it...so i thought i'd point out that it's the primary source of [precious little] nutrition education the schoolchildren in this country receive.

                        1. Some thoughts about this Food Plate from the WSJ:


                          The gripe of Prof. Shellhorn and others who present data for a living is that the new, multicolor plate icon is stuck uncomfortably in between an abstract icon and a graphic that conveys quantitative information. For instance, the different sizes of plate segments suggest relative proportions of food groups that should fill up consumers' plates, but USDA officials say these aren't meant to indicate actual proportions. And indeed they don't:

                          Read it all here: http://goo.gl/QDAVI

                          1. Your assessment looks right on to me, GHG.

                            I've never met a nutritionist or dietician who didn't get stammering mad when the subject of the food pyramid comes up.

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              yet, most of them are quick to chirp about eating lots of "healthy grains" and a low-fat diet. that advice nearly broke me -- both my insulin response and my metabolism.

                              the first food pyramid was a concoction between earl buttz and big ag. not much has changed, and americans are fatter than ever. a new graphic isn't going to change people's habits.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                hotoynoodle I only wish I could be so succinct. Nice post.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  yet, most of them are quick to chirp about eating lots of "healthy grains" and a low-fat diet.
                                  not me. but then i've always been a rebel...and it's left me with very grateful (and healthy!) clients.

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    To an extent, I feel like the dominant medical establishment has called for too much starch and too little fat in the 'healthy' diet. This has gone on for a while, and the idea that a low fat high grain diet is the healthiest way to go is well entrenched. Like any well entrenched idea, it's slow to change. This is further complicated by the fact that many Americans really do eat too much fat (and the wrong kinds of fat) even by more sensible and modern dietary standards. So even though the USDA's recommendations may be problematic, telling many Americans to cut down on fat might still be a good thing.

                                    But here's the catch - even though there are plenty of nutritionists and dieticians who stand by the older dominant line of dietary advice, my experience from talking to different people in the medical field is that a nutritionist or dietician is the most likely of the various health professionals to be critical of the USDA recommendations and to be incorporating newer theory and information into their recommendations. If there is a change in the dominant style of nutritional advice, these are the professionals I think you'll hear it from first, with the USDA and your doctors slower to follow.

                                    This is all just my opinion, coming from a non-nutritionist by the way. Could be wrong, and doubtless many healthcare professionals would disagree with me.

                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      Makes sense cowboyardee. It is their specialty. I've been changing the way I eat and was delighted to learn that avocados are my friends! I've always gone easy on them even though I love them so but now they are my favorite pizza topping.

                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        This is further complicated by the fact that many Americans really do eat too much fat (and the wrong kinds of fat)


                                        they eat too many garbage fats with too many refined carbs. as long as you can get 99 cents meals at any fast-food joint, that's not going to change.

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          Agreed. The economics of the problem is the hardest part to address. That said, I feel a close examination of our government's financial relationship with the food industry might yield some important progress. In many ways, mass producers of less healthy foods are subsidized and backed by favorable legislation while producers of varied, healthy, ready-to-eat crops are not. Likewise, it would be a lot harder to produce beef and chicken in amounts sufficient to push the price of mcnuggets or a double cheeseburger down to 99 cents if American producers legally had to treat their animals with just the teeniest bit of goddamn respect.

                                          Ending that financial and legislative bias would be a start. And that's nothing to say of actually supporting and favoring producers of healthier, less processed foods.

                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                            Here's some light reading for ya cowboyardee:
                                            The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine Are Destroying Your Health
                                            And I thought Steven King wrote scary books.

                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                              Having spent over a decade in the ag reinsurance industry, I can add that many of us who are privy to how ag-related funding works (including crop insurance subsidies), feel that the Fed gov is in many ways indirectly responsible for the diabetes epidemic we've got going in this country.

                                              There were/are often discussions and proposals of programs to redirect some of that funding to table crops, but, as you can imagine is the case with our government institutions, it is slow and painful going...

                                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                the finance guys who frequent the restaurant in which i work "joke" that pharma companies with approved or pending diabetes drugs are sure-fire winning bets as investments for the long-haul. nice, huh?

                                          2. re: cowboyardee

                                            The recommendation was up to 30% Fat, with an emphasis on healthy fats. I think that is reasonable.

                                      2. Check this Huffington Post article out on 10 food pyramids from around the world... personally, I love France's:


                                        4 Replies
                                          1. re: piccola

                                            Thanks! Yes, Canada's also seem to favor fruits/vegs the most as opposed to grains which so many of the other nations' charts have as what seems to be the favored food group...I like France's because it shows vegs/fruits/legumes as #1, shows people being active, and pushes water. Their stairstep model appeals to me, heh!

                                            1. re: Val

                                              Interestingly, the French government doesn't publish that stairstep any more -- I haven't seen it in a couple of years, at least.

                                              BUT it is correct that they're the only ones around who take out regular PSAs reminding you to MOVE (bouger). Every ad for EVERY food contains something -- whether it's the reminder to eat 5 fruits and veg a day, to move for 30 minutes a day, avoid snacking, cut down on sugars and fats...

                                              They do a very good job of keeping it in people's minds and making it simple -- the blurbs on every food ad are short and to the point, eliminating as much confusion as possible.

                                              1. re: Val

                                                The problem with ours (Canada's) is that even though the science is sound, the design is really outdated and most people don't really know how to apply the info in real life. The gov did an update a few years ago that was a vast improvement, but there's still a ways to go.

                                          2. It takes way too many clicks to get to the portion size area of the website, and it's buried. It's four clicks, and than one more for each top of food. It should be in a link on the first page where it says "eat less".

                                            You just can't tell a nation "Eat less" that has been programmed by places like McD's or Olive Garden that 5 food servings are actually on their plate in the restaurant.

                                            Which somehow just reminded me of the SNL spoof on the Whopper virgins ads "But this will feed my whole village for a month!"

                                            1. I agree w/ your points. If I were to do it (ha), it would probably be way to complicated. It would be by portion size w/ a picture and not some "random" plate. And, I wouldn't limit vegetables (the non starchy kids). For things like spinach, broccoli, etc. it would be "eat at least xxxxx" and have a picture that people could follow. Fruit only once or twice a day but show how big a serving is and show a whole fruit, not juice.

                                              But, then portion sizes vary depending on individual and that would make it so complicated. I guess it would be simple enough for you to put in your desired weight and for it to tell you how much to eat. And, people have to remember that's just an average.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: chowser

                                                The problem with interactive stuff like plugging in your desired weight is that you need a computer and internet access to use it. Not everyone has that, especially poorer communities.

                                                1. re: piccola

                                                  It would be nice if everyone had easier access. At the same time, just because not everyone has access doesn't mean it wouldn't be helpful to those who do. Not everyone is literate but labels are helpful to those who are.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    True. I'm just saying it shouldn't be the only option -- since it's a matter of public policy and part of a government program, it has to work (at least theoretically) for every demographic.

                                              2. I am SO with you, on every point.

                                                5 Replies
                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                    I fear I'm becoming too predictable!

                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                      well in some cases i don't think that's a bad thing. it's better than flip-flopping every week based on the latest "news" or trend, right? i try to be flexible and open-minded in many areas of life, but i'm stubborn as a mule when it comes to subject matter like this...and i appreciate that you are as well.

                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                        I like to keep an open mind, just not so open that my brain falls out. :-)

                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                          ha! i *love* that. may have to borrow it...

                                                1. It resembles an individual-size frozen pizza, with extra pepperoni on the side.

                                                  1. More wasteful government spending

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: rasputina

                                                      all part of, and more of, the dumbing down of America!

                                                      1. re: JRCann

                                                        we are the america that is doing the dumbing down

                                                      2. re: rasputina

                                                        If the admin really wanted to spend tax dollars wisely they would return "Home EC" classes to Middle and High school curricula. As I recall in the 50's that's where we (both boys and girls) learned about general health issues such as nutrition, obesity (and how babies happened); also how to keep and balance your checkbook, how to create a budget (Congress must have skipped this class) and how to clean up a kitchen properly and not poison the family in the process. Also important stuff like how to make chewy brownies! I will blame the feminist movement for destroying Home Economics.

                                                        1. re: JRCann

                                                          They still have home ec at school but it's called family science and includes cooking, sewing, nutrition. They also have sex ed, ad nauseum. I don't think kids are ignorant about how babies are made.

                                                          So, yeah, that feminist movement that took women out of the kitchen and giving her birth control options and shoes didn't destroy it all.:-p

                                                          1. re: JRCann

                                                            Isn't public school curriculum established by each state and county? Not sure how much is determined by Washington DC...just saying...<shrug>

                                                            1. re: Val

                                                              The Pyramid and Plate are products of a particular department in the USDA. They have been producing educational material since 1994, some of that is aimed at kids, and could be used in schools.
                                                              http://www.choosemyplate.gov/kids/ind... still uses the pyramid graphic.

                                                              Educational guidelines and support for various programs (e.g. No Child left behind) are the responsibility of a different cabinet level department (Dept of Ed).

                                                              There is also nutrition dept in the CDC (is that under HUD?