MyPlate easier to understand, USDA officials say
By SEAN ELLIS
Agricultural groups across the nation applauded the USDA's new MyPlate icon.
The icon was unveiled last week and replaces the 19-year-old food pyramid.
But no one was happier than the fruit and vegetable industry because half of the plate is filled with fruits and vegetables, a powerful reminder to Americans that half their meals should consist of foods from those two groups, they say.
"This is a breakthrough message for all of us engaged in fruits and vegetables, whether it's growers, shippers, wholesalers or retailers," said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for United Fresh Produce Association. "This is just a great day for us."
The colorful food plate was unveiled during a ceremony at USDA headquarters that included Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, First Lady Michelle Obama and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin.
While critics of the old food pyramid said it was dated and too confusing for many consumers to understand, USDA officials said the new food plate is an easy-to-understand visual cue that quickly offers people a general outline of what should be on their plate.
Half of the plate consists of fruits and vegetables, a fourth is occupied by protein and the other fourth by grains.
Idaho Potato Commission President and CEO Frank Muir said that industry is pleased with the new plate.
"Potatoes clearly benefit from being included in one of the two largest sections of the plate," he said, noting that spuds also contain much of the nutrition represented in the grains and protein portions of the plate.
"I think potatoes come out very well in this plate," he said. "The potato fits in multiple ways."
The icon includes a blue circle, representing a glass, labeled "Dairy," which sits well with that industry.
"We're happy that dairy is reflected on the food plate and we're glad to see it maintained its part as an individual food group," said Cheri Chase, communications director for the Idaho Dairymen's Association.
Chase is impressed with the simplicity of the new icon.
"The old food pyramid took a lot of education for people to really understand what it meant," she said. "I think this new one is an easy graphic for people to understand."
In a joint news release, the grain industry commended the USDA for the new image.
"With grains appropriately occupying a large portion on the dinner plate graphic, the (government is) making a strong statement regarding the importance of grains as the foundation of a healthy lifestyle," the statement said.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association also gave it a thumbs up.
"The MyPlate icon makes it easy for consumers to enjoy lean beef, while meeting the recommendation to fill half of their plate with fruits and vegetables," NCBA President Bill Donald said in a statement.
The MyPlate icon also directs people to a website, www.choosemyplate.gov, that includes more detailed information about the USDA's 2010 dietary guidelines. The site features tools designed to help consumers manage their weight and track their exercise.