Have you heard of MyPlate? It’s been around since last summer, and it’s the USDA’s new graphic to replace the Food Pyramid. If you ask me, it’s a big improvement. This was by and large the food world’s response as well. Naturally, there is still room for improvement.
Marion Nestle gave a concise review in the San Francisco Chronicle. She commends the USDA for covering half the plate with fruits and vegetables, recommending that half of grain servings should be whole grain—let’s face it, it should be all of them–but points out that the protein and dairy sections are not necessary. “Protein is not a food. It is a nutrient” as she puts it.
In the months since its release, MyPlate has inspired some intelligent variations. One of my favorites is this one from Grist that cites a Washington Post article (interesting in itself) and illustrates the chasm between recommended diet composition and what we’re spending our tax dollars subsidizing. The contrast couldn’t be more stark and is a great reminder that we pay for cheap food with our taxes, personal money, health and environment. The point being that it isn’t actually cheap. The lion’s share of the subsidy plate is covered with protein and dairy…not things we should be eating so copiously. Think about that when you’re paying as much for a pound of apples as a pound of ground beef.
But if you’re looking for actual advice on how to eat, the one to use comes from the Harvard Health blog. It is intended as a
challenge to the USDA’s plate and might have come from the USDA itself if big food didn’t wield so much influence over policy. Remember that we subsidize protein and dairy and so are encouraged to consume a lot of both. If I had to choose a target plate, this is the one I would follow. Unlike the USDA, the Harvard School of Public Health can come right out and tell you to limit refined grains, dairy and processed meats. This plate could easily represent a vegan diet, something that really can’t be said for MyPlate. If you’re confused at all about what your diet should look like for your health, take a look at this one. The commentary is short and to the point.
We’re in a mainstream food environment now that has profits for large companies at its core and billions in advertising (and lobbying) money at its disposal. While MyPlate is a drastic improvement on the food pyramid, it doesn’t come from an objective science-based perspective. Here’s some simple advice that does, and it’s from Michael Pollan: Eat food (as opposed to edible food-like substances). Not too much. Mostly plants.