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Goodbye Food Pyramid, Hello MyPlate

Jun9

The United States Department of Agriculture, in an effort to combat the epidemic of obesity putting a strain on the American health care system, has retracted its traditional Food Pyramid in favor of a new suggestion of healthy meals, called MyPlate.

With MyPlate the emphasis is clearly on fruits and vegetables, with low fat proteins getting just a tiny slice of the pie, so to speak. The new food recommendations have a new icon, a plate split into four equal parts. One half of the plate is devoted just to fruits and vegetables. The other half is split between whole grains and lean protein. The USDA also recommends you drink a glass of skim milk or have some low fat dairy to go along with your healthy meal.

These new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans puts the emphasis on fruits and vegetables, but it also makes suggestions about reducing caloric intake, reducing sodium and drinking more water instead if sugary soft drinks. More Americans are obese today than ever before and all previous efforts to counter this obesity epidemic have failed miserably. It is nearly impossible to fight obesity when sugary snacks, high calorie sweets and soft drinks are advertised on nearly every television channel, marketed directly to children. For Americans on restricted budgets, the cost of junk food compared to high value fruits and vegetables is much lower, making them a more likely choice for those who are trying to reduce costs. For many it is easier to buy the kids a bag of potato chips than a bag of carrots–and it is cheaper.

The USDA also launched a new web site to promote the new MyPlate food structure. The new web site, ChooseMyPlate.org, was created to help Americans make better choices when it comes to the foods they eat and feed their families.  The web site has recipes, tips and cooking tricks that are designed to help American families eat better and healthier meals. It also has suggestions for helping families stretch their budget when it comes to buying health foods.

The first food pyramid was released in 1992 and recommended Americans eat five to nine servings of vegetables every day, plus six to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta. It made no recommendations between refined and whole grains which meant it wound up promoting too many grain servings which actually promoted obesity. That pyramid was replaced by the MyPyramid in 2005 which did not offer much information at all. It just showed an image of a stick figure walking up the side of a pyramid.

It remains to be seen whether USDA recommendations make any difference in American eating habits. People seem to eat what they will and are prone to allow their health deteriorate as a result of their poor choices. Making recommendations about what they should or should not eat is great on paper, but in reality, ultimately, the only thing that is going to change the American eating habit, is the American doing the eating.

Emma Thomas is an avid food critic and a longtime advocate of healthy food living. With the help of a team of Virtual Assistants, Emma runs a healthy living website showing people how to cook food healthy. If you’re interested in Emma’s healthy initiatives or would like to find out more on how to use a Virtual Assistant, visit her website.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by malias

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