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15 June 2011, 9:00 am 2 Comments

Search for the Sustainable Source: MyPyramid, MyPlate, My Life

This post was submitted by Kira

c. choosemyplate.gov/

It is somewhat amusing to me that fats and sugars are not even included on the new MyPlate released late last month. As advertisements inundate us daily adamantly telling us otherwise; we are, of course, all adults, and we can figure out what we should without the government telling us, right? So much of our decision-making is influenced by what we are told though marketing schemes—from private sector corporations or public service announcement from the government.  And if we are not explicitly told, are we sure we know what to do?

The USDA has stepped it up with new a direction of food checking with MyPlate. This lovely image, featuring: (ta-da!) a plate, with the essential food groups clearly depicted, so we will all understand what we should eat and how much should be consumed.  This, of course, replaces our old friend, the food pyramid—and what ever did happen to that food pyramid anyway? It has been in limbo for a while, first, the USDA tried for to implement a personalized MyPyramid, which was supposed to be altered according to the individual person (and it included exercise as well, showing a little man running up it). Though I can honestly say I never quite understood that pyramid—it came out after I was out of school, and who learns this stuff anyway, besides school children? Plus, there were no pictures of food on it—how can it be a food pyramid if there is no food on it?

The most recent development, MyPlate is the new alternative, offering a not only logical, but also realistic idea of what one should eat.   No more counting servings a day (and did anyone actually know how much is actually in a serving?), now you can just look at your plate and figure it out based on the fraction the food covers (much like a pie-chart).   The idea behind it is that it will encourage people to eat healthfully, who don’t have time to think about food intake for the day, but they can think about it in the moment.   Parents can better feed their children a balanced meal when all they have to do is look down at the potions on the dinner plate.  And though the abstract image doesn’t have pictures, we can all figure it out easily as it is a plate—which is an improvement from the past pyramid that we had.


As Stephen Colbert kindly commented on the new developments of MyPlate, he exclaimed: “Americans don’t use plates anymore. Our food comes from cases, bags, cans, tubes, and envelopes made of themselves!”  And, yes, I am quoting Colbert here, he does have a point: How many of us actually sit down at the dinner table and eat a meal set out on a plate.   I consider myself to be a healthy eater and I maybe, if I am lucky, eat one meal a week on a plate arranged so that the servings are visible (Sandwiches don’t count here!).  Part of the idea of MyPlate, is encourage eating from a plate, which means sitting down, not day full of snacks on the go.  It means actually paying attention to what we consume.


The USDA launched MyPlate complete with an interactive website, so one can monitor the daily food intake meticulously using planners, trackers and even a foodpedia.  I decided to try it, fill out all the information and see what I came up with—I was honest, I even added a candy bar to my daily intake, for those days when I just can’t resist!   Beyond food, you can fill out your daily physical activity, and then compare the two. The site will track your history (if you diligently input information everyday) and give you an energy calculation, recommendations, nutrient intake…and the list goes on.


As I was sitting here, trying to think: what the hell did I eat today? How many blueberries were actually in the handful that I threw into my cereal in the morning? Do I have to count the extra cup of coffee I had at 3pm? I realized I could never do this every day, because I just don’t care that much.   I think I have my food groups covered, though like everyone, I could probably stand to cut back on the carbs, and instead of hot fudge on the fro-yo, add the fruit topping.  I think it was worth one day, sitting down and inputting a typical day in the life of food, and just see where you stand.  (Though, I am still not sure where the candy bar landed on health index)


My final question to the recent developments of the government food recommendations: what size plate are we talking here exactly?

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    I like all of the points you’ve made.