June 2, 2011

USDA Unveils New Health Icon For Learning

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled its new guide to healthy eating on Thursday.

The new icon, MyPlate, is divided into four sections for fruits, vegetables, protein and grains, with a dairy cup beside it.

MyPlate replaces the original pyramid, which was released in 1992 and included the four food groups stacked in the shape of a pyramid. 

The USDA revised the pyramid in 2005, expanding the number of food groups to six while adding a person walking up steps on the side to emphasize the need for exercise.

"The original icon was a bit misleading, e.g., all fats are bad," Sara Bleich, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told ABC news. "The [new pyramid] required consumers to go online in order to maximize effectiveness of the food guide."

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new icon is a "simple, visual, research-based icon" designed to help Americans choose the right proportions from the major food groups.

The icon will be taught in schools and used as part of federal foods program and by doctors and nurses.

Experts believe the MyPlate icon represents the right points.

"Portion size, even of healthy foods, plays a major role in controlling weight and reducing the risk of a number of chronic diseases," Marisa Moore, national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association said in a statement.

"In counseling, I recommend using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate. Research shows that using a smaller plate -- or glass -- can help reduce the total calories consumed in a meal."

It accompanies dietary guidelines released in January and a push by first lady Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama said the USDA's new tool goes hand-in-hand with her "Let's Move" campaign designed to reduce childhood obesity by encouraging better nutrition and exercise.

"This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we're eating and as a mom, I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country," said first lady Michelle Obama during the presentation Thursday.

"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."


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