The United States Department of Agriculture has finally retired its complicated, weird-looking nutrition pyramid in favor of a plate-shaped diagram called MyPlate meant to simplify the message: Make about half your meal fruits and vegetables, a quarter of it grains (whole whenever possible), the other quarter protein, and get some dairy on the side. It's a pie chart, more or less, but don't call it that. They don't want you eating too much pie. Notice there's no dessert plate in the new diagram.
As NPR's April Fulton points out, not many will miss the old design, which didn't even have any pictures of food. "Just about everyone agrees the pyramid was complicated, and tried to get too many messages across at once--more dairy, less sweets, exercise, portion control, etc."
In fact, the old designs--first the bread-at-the-bottom one, then the updated one with stairs--were so useless, non-governmental nutrition institutes tried to supplant their own designs. Harvard's School of Public Health came up with its own version of the food pyramid to use instead of the government's because, it said, "Their recommendations have often been based on out-of-date science and influenced by people with business interests in their messages."
Here's what Michelle Obama had to say in the press release announcing the design today: "When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work, we’re already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew. So it’s tough to be a nutritionist, too. But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. As long as they’re half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden. That’s how easy it is."
One wouldn't expect Michelle Malkin to be on the same page as Michelle Obama, and she's not, really, but even her blog had some less-than-vitriolic reaction to the design in a post by Doug Powers, who called the plate "similarly useless but easier to understand" than the pyramid. Still, Powers thought the whole thing was a waste of money. The USDA spent about $2 million to develop and promote the logo.
At Good magazine, Peter Smith suggests part of the USDA's agenda behind the plate is "federal dietary advice towards less meats (the subtle message in "protein")," which he sees as a good thing. In the end, the general consensus is that the new design is a big improvement on the old one, in terms of getting its message across, and easier on the eyes, too. You can also check out the interactive tools the USDA unrolled with the plate at www.choosemyplate.gov, where a program gives you personalized guidelines based on age, weight, and activity level.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.