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MyPlate is more than a graphic icon, but will it work?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Nutrition specialists from the American Dietetic Association support the MyPlate icon as a useful, "intuitive" way to help consumers eat more healthfully. The image of a portion controlled food offers easy to understand guidance, but the USDA also focuses on more than what's on consumer's plates. The question is, will it work?

For consumers, foods encouraged are moderate in cost and incorporate disease fighting nutrition from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and moderate protein.

MyPlate makes it easier for Americans to eat the right portions of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and proteins at meal time. A click on the icon helps consumers understand the value behind foods that are part of the traditional food pyramid.

The goal is to encourage Americans to eat less, reduce fat, consume more fruits and vegetables at each meal; lower sodium intake and cut out sugary, calorie laden drinks in lieu of water, but the USDA is offering a whole lot more than just nutrition with the recent switch from the food pyramid icon to MyPlate.

MyPlate educates beyond food

The USDA, MyPlate site offers a ‘tip of the day’ that not only includes optimal nutrition and portion size, but also includes guidance for overall health and well-being.

Physical activity, safe food handling, sample menus, tips for eating out and vegetarian diet guidance are part of the USDA MyPlate site, complete with downloadable materials and samples of easy to prepare, cost-effective meals.

Registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association (ADA) President Sylvia A. Escott-Stump explains.an icon isn’t enough to educate consumers. "No matter how informative or intuitive the symbol, it needs to be combined with easy-to-understand messages, motivational and educational tools – all specialties of registered dietitians – that guide people toward healthy food choices."

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She adds, "A goal for this new icon must be to increase the, nutrition literacy of all people. The visual representations on the plate can support nutrition messages provided by registered dietitians and ADA.”

Will MyPlate be a success?

Escott Stump says only time will tell if MyPlate will be successful, but it is a step in the right direction.

She says the ADA supports the government’s emphasis on helping Americans follow a healthy diet, starting with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that was an important and urgently needed step for addressing obesity in the United States and “an unhealthy public”.

Registered dieticians can provide individualized advice for those seeking to lose weight, suffering from diabetes and for individuals with chronic illness.

Eating healthful foods doesn’t have to be expensive – an important note for most of us who are on a limited budget.

Sample menus using MyPlate are based on “moderate cost”, making it easy to eat healthful, nutritious foods that also help curb a variety of diseases.

Multiple studies show controlling weight, reducing salt intake, consuming whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean protein into the diet can curb hunger in the fight against obesity, fight heart disease, diabetes, boost immunity and possibly prevent cancer.

Promoting good nutrition, replacing salt with healing herbs and spices and promoting the right balance of food and physical activity are big steps toward boosting public health and well-being and reducing the financial and physical burden of disease among obese, unhealthy Americans, making MyPlate a whole lot more than just an visual icon.



i think the graphic design is confusing, with the plate divided in make it hard to know the right percentage of nutrients the body needed and the dairy as a circle further complicate­s the sense of scale and proportion­s.