Nutrition Articles

Out with the Pyramid, In with the Plate

What You Need to Know about USDA's ''MyPlate''

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Sometime during your life, you’ve probably seen that colorful triangle containing a variety of foods and how many servings you need to eat each day. Perhaps you learned about it back in health class, saw it displayed on the cafeteria wall, or glanced at it on the back of your cereal box one morning. That familiar food pyramid (introduced in 1991) was supposed to be our nutrition survival guide in a one-size-fits-all world. But let's face it—many people found the pyramid to be confusing, and felt that it didn't really help individuals know how to plan a healthy diet, one meal at a time. And maybe more importantly, nutrition (and how many servings of food you need each day) is far from one-size-fits-all.

So in May 2011, the USDA finally ditched the pyramid concept in favor of a brand new shape: a circle—or rather, a plate. Their former "MyPyramid" website was also revamped and now redirects to a new online tool:

2005 Food Guide Pyramid

New "MyPlate" Icon

Pyramid vs. Plate: What's different?
While the basic nutritional guidelines for Americans remain the same, the USDA Plate and the old pyramid do have a few noticeable differences:
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

Member Comments

  • CynthiaJl you can http://www.learni

    - 3/18/2016 10:47:52 AM
  • Wow, the plate model! I am a certified nutritionist and find a plate model super useful and easy! Especially when eating out. Itīs impossible to measure and count calories or grams in a restaurant but very much possible to visually decide on how much of what you are consuming. Great post! - 9/24/2015 7:28:43 AM
  • I just had another look at the pyramid - at first blush, its hard to visualize that the volumes of the segments making up the pyramid are different ( they all look more or less the same). It nearly made me want to calculate the areas of all of them. Very confusing ,of course, this was the Sesame Street generation, so no surprise there. - 4/4/2015 8:24:22 PM
  • Thanks for fixing the sparkpoints. - 4/4/2015 8:11:52 PM
  • where were the points? - 12/18/2014 11:06:32 PM
  • MyPlate is a more user-friendly visual, but its "one-size-fits-al
    l" approach is too simplistic for people with special needs such as diabetes or overweight. Six servings of grain is way too much for me, as a Type 2 diabetic (controlled with diet and exercise), and there is also the fact that when it comes to blood sugar my body sees no difference between whole grain and refined food items. (Although I do understand there are other health reasons to choose whole grain items.) Also, MyPlate makes no distinction between starchy and non-starchy vegetables, and anyone who has ever tried to lose weight or keep their blood glucose in range knows that potatoes and corn are NOT the equivalent of romaine or broccoli -- yet MyPyramid treats them all the same. But as a visual aid, I think that MyPlate is more intuitive than MyPyramid. It's just that as a Type 2 diabetic trying to lose weight, my own personal MyPlate looks a lot different than USDA's. - 11/14/2013 7:52:22 AM
    A step in the right direction, but a Long way to go. Still too many carbs, & nobody benefits from gluten containing grains. NICOLE: Sorry, but you are wrong about saturated fats/ cholesterol. I know that is what you were taught in school, & it is based on the terribly bad science espoused By Ancel Keys decades ago. Eating oils w/ saturated fats & cholesterol does Not raise Blood levels of cholesterol. So, what does? Eating Too Many Carbs! Oils like coconut oil are Amazing; They contain short and medium chain fats which Raise HDL (good cholesterol) & So many more benefits. Time to read "Perfect Health Diet" by Paul Jaminet Ph.D..., (See Ch 13 in particular). A great book about cholesterol that Anyone can understand is "The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering your Cholesterol won't prevent Heart Disease - and the Statin-Free Plan that will" By Stephen Sinatra M.D., Cardiologist. Another excellent book that addresses The problem of consuming too many grains & tells which fats & oils Are healthy and Why is "Grain Brain" by David Perlmutter, M.D., Neurologist. (We consume Way to many omega 6 oils, which are primarily in vegetable oils. Also, Dr. Perlmutter provides charts to show which oils are safe to cool with & why; for example, olive oil is great, but Only unheated such as w/ salad dressing or at Low heat cooking temps). Nobody should consume margarine! Use grass/ pasture fed butter, or, if you have intolerance w/ lactose, whey or casein in dairy, use grass fed Ghee, available on Amazon by Pure Indian Foods or Ancient Organics. I don't expect people to just take my word on this. I have applied this info to my Husband's scary dense pattern B LDL cholesterol profile, very low HDL, High triglycerides, & type 2 diabetes. What Happened? in 2 mos., he is no longer diabetic, his Triglycerides dropped from 197 to 119, & his LDL is Changing from scary, Dense pattern B to the buoyant "good" pattern A LDL. ALL by Eating Saturated fats like coconut oil, Grass fed butter, grass fed beef..., ditching grains & eating low carb. (Exercise helps too, o... - 11/13/2013 8:52:42 AM
  • It would be really helpful if the Sparkpeople Nutrient Counter included the number of fruit or veggie servings in each food and a total for the day at the bottom. ;-) - 1/8/2013 10:43:43 PM
  • The American plate looks totally different to the British one. Here is ours (the Eatwell Plate):
    atwell-plate.aspx - 6/18/2012 12:44:09 PM
    This site has a wide variety of physical activities listed in the data base tracker. I was able to find water walking, slow, medium or fast pace. Thanks. - 6/14/2012 10:31:39 PM
  • WINACHST, protein DOES need to be included on the plate.

    I am very glad to see that half the plate is veggies and fruit (most of mine will be veggies; fruit sometimes disagrees here). Protein is also essential, and not all of us can eat heavy legumes or nuts to get our protein. So, yes, for some of us it will be meat and/or fish and/or eggs. Sorry about the dictates of reality. - 6/14/2012 8:01:03 PM
  • I want a "plate" of my own!!

    I think the plate idea is a good one. - 6/14/2012 5:41:44 PM
  • Unfortunately there is a lot information in this article that is FALSE! If the author would have taken the time to create a profile (like I have done), she would have learned that it DOES tell you how many servings to eat, including fat (or "oils") and empty calories. And it takes YOUR personal lifestyle into consideration (i.e. level of activity, pregnancy, breastfeeding).

    My dietician turned me on to this site when I was pregnant, so I've gotten a lot of time with it. I much prefer SparkPeople's tracker because it has a HUGE database of food, but my plate is terrific at telling me what I should be eating. The move from a pyramid to plate is certainly the right direction! - 5/3/2012 12:39:27 PM
  • I think the plate serves the purpose it was intended to do. A good simple guide, especially when eating out, or in other situations where you are not making the food. I thought the "debate" about calling one section protein was somewhat foolish. To say that people know that protein is contained in all food, so might find that section of the plate confusing??? First of all, I would say there is a fair number of people that don't "know" this, and second, if they are intelligent or educated, enough *to* know this, they are intelligent or educated enough to know what this section represents.

    And with regards to the comment that we shouldn't "dumb down" public education about nutrition. The fact of the matter is many people will not spend the time reading about nutrition, so there does need to be a simplified message. And, remember, half the human population is below the 50th percentile in intelligence. - 2/15/2012 12:51:02 AM
  • where does the excercize come in?

    Alice Schatz - 6/18/2011 11:42:29 PM

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