This Thursday, the USDA will announce the first major change in the healthy eating icon, the Pyramid, since it was introduced in 1992. The familiar (or unfamiliar to some) rainbow striped Pyramid will be replaced with a plate icon to help get Americans back on track to healthier eating. The healthy eating icons are supposed to be the visual representation of the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which we covered earlier this year when they were released.
I’ve been in nutrition long enough to remember the old “Basic Four” icon that was around before the Pyramid(s).
According to the first report on what we can expect on Thursday from the NY Times, the new icon will have four sections: Fruits, veggies, lean protein and grains. There will also be a section adjacent to the plate for low-fat or nonfat dairy (or dairy alternative) choices. (Sounds very “Basic Four-ish”)
As a dietitian, I never really “got” the pyramid and always focused on teaching healthy eating through plate references. As a general rule, RDs say to make 3/4 of your plate from plant-based foods and save 1/4 for lean animal-based protein.
One plate that has quite a following in the American Institute of Cancer Research created the “New American Plate” several years ago, and it was based on the research to best reduce cancer risk. It’s main focus is eating a plant-centric diet, as we expect the new USDA icon will also recommend.
If the plate is going to make a dent in the nation’s waistline, I can only hope USDA provides some guidance about the SIZE of the plate. The dinner plates that are sold today could double as pizza pans. I’ve used salad or dessert plates for our main courses for ages and we usually only use our dinner plates as serving platters.
We’ll be revealing the new icon this Thursday and our POV on it. What are your thoughts? Is a plate better than a Pyramid?