Harvard Health Letter

Now being served, better nutrition advice

Our Healthy Eating Plate alternative to the government's MyPlate.

Several months after the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the latest version of its Dietary Guidelines, the department unveiled the icon that's supposed to convey the main points. Dietary guidelines go back to the 1910s, and wheels, boxed groupings, and pyramids have been used to illustrate the prior versions. The government was smart to pick a plate this time. Pyramid imagery can show priorities and proportions, but no one — not even the ancient Egyptians — has ever eaten off a pyramid. The MyPlate icon is also easy to remember with just four categories: fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein. In that way, it harkens back to the four basic food groups — meat; milk; vegetables and fruit; bread and cereal — that many of us grew up with.

But in a well-intentioned effort to perhaps keep the message simple, the MyPlate icon doesn't say enough about the food choices that people should make — although, in fairness, the bulleted text that goes along with the brightly colored plate does provide some useful guidance.

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