Friday, June 03, 2011
By Brian Vastag
Published: June 2
After devoting decades to designing a food pyramid, then refining that design with colored stripes and steps, the nation’s nutrition experts have finally settled on what they believe is the perfect geometry to represent what we should eat: a plate.
Circular, with four colorful divisions to represent the four main food groups, the new plate looks just like a pie chart — a description experts shun because, well, pie isn’t good for you.
Indeed, arriving in the midst of an obesity epidemic, this new at-a-glance guide to healthful eating is meant to remind consumers to limit heavy foods like pie and beef up instead on the greens.
“MyPlate” promotes fruits and vegetables, which cover half the circle. Grains occupy an additional quarter, as do proteins such as meat, fish and poultry. A separate circle (looking remarkably like an aerial view of a cup) represents “dairy” and rests to the side. Desserts appear to have been banished — like the pyramid — to the desert.
The message is clear: “Make half your plate fruits and vegetables,” said Robert Post, an official at USDA’s center for nutrition policy and promotion.
The Obama administration has high hopes for establishing the brightly colored image as a ubiquitous consumer icon. Post said the USDA is targeting food producers, health insurers, restaurants and schools as partners in promoting the image.
At a media-heavy rollout Thursday morning at USDA headquarters, the famously foodie first lady presided, focusing on the obesity problem in children.
“Kids can learn to use this tool now and use it for the rest of their lives,” Obama said. “It’s an image that can be reinforced at breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
USDA will bring the image to “essentially all” schools in the country via the agency’s breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and other nutrition programs, Post said.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new “food icon” was designed to help slim Americans’ expanding girths: Two-thirds of American adults and one-third of children are overweight or obese.
“The costs associated with obesity are enormous,” Vilsack said, adding that the image popped into his head at just the right moment during dinner recently. A steak arrived covering “three-quarters” of his plate. “I didn’t eat it all,” he said.
Read entire report here.