The USDA Dietary Guidelines 2010 are just out (Yes, I know it’s 2011, but these are US government guidelines).
And the Food Guide Pyramid is officially dead! In the future it will only be available to nutrition educators.
You may remember the Food Guide Pyramid. It recommended 6 to 11 servings of whole grains, 3 to 5 servings of fresh vegetables, 2 to 4 servings of fresh fruit, 2 to 3 servings of dairy and 2 to 3 servings of meat, beans, eggs & nuts.
It was clear. It was concise. And anyone following that plan would likely be improving their health.
The problem was that almost nobody followed the Food Guide Pyramid plan. No more than 5% of Americans actually ate that way on a regular basis.
There have been lots of suggestions as to why the Food Guide Pyramid was a bust,
- Some people said that it was too complicated.
- Some said that the average American had no idea what a serving size was.
- Some said that it was just too far away from the reality of the way that Americans actually ate to be taken seriously.
- And some pointed out that the millions spent by the USDA to educate consumers about the benefits of eating according to the Food Guide Pyramid may have been swamped out by the billions spent by the food industry advertising junk and convenience foods.
In an effort to simplify and create a goal that was closer to the way that Americans actually ate, the USDA began promoting the concept of just 4 to 6 servings/day of fresh fruits and vegetables.
And again America yawned!
So now the USDA has rolled out a new concept – the Food Guide Plate (trumpets please, and a drum roll for good measure!).
It’s out with the old (the Food Guide Pyramid) and in with the new (the Food Guide Plate).
The new visual consists of a dinner plate and an 8 ounce glass of milk. Vegetables and fruits occupy half of the dinner plate, with grains and protein occupying the other half. And if you look a bit more closely, the vegetable portion is slightly bigger than the fruit portion and the grain portion is slightly bigger than the protein portion.
That is certainly simpler. No more counting servings or trying to figure out how big a serving is.
There is one big problem, however.
Less than 50% of what we ate in 2003 were sit down meals at home – the kind that you might eat off of a plate.
The unfortunate truth is that more of the foods that we eat at home are eaten out of a bag or box rather than from a plate.
And when we eat away from home, we often eat on the run – a muffin here, a bag of chips there, a fast food meal somewhere else.
And when we do eat in a restaurant we have no control over how the various foods are portioned out on the plate. A stir fry may sound like a healthy dish – but not if two thirds of the dish is taken up by white rice.
In other words the Food Guide Plate is a simple concept, but it captures only a small part of what we actually eat on a daily basis.
My fear is that the Food Guide Plate will be of even less use for actually changing the eating behavior of the general American public than was the food guide pyramid.
However, not all is lost! If you are serious about improving your diet the new USDA web site (www.ChooseMyPlate.gov) is a great resource.
If you are willing to take the time to go through the site you will learn a lot about making healthy food choices and you can create a personalized diet just for you.
I recommend that you use the Food Guide Plate as a visual to help you eat healthy portions of the various food groups when you are eating at home and use www.ChooseMyPlate.gov to create an overall healthy diet.
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