National Food Icon Takes a New Shape

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Last Thursday I watched First Lady Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin unveil the new food icon, MyPlate. I love the new icon that replaces the often times confusing MyPyramid image as a visual cue and teaching tool.

The intent of the new icon is to translate the main tips of the newly updated 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans into a visual that helps Americans build healthy diets, one meal at a time. The main take away tips from the Dietary Guidelines are to:
  • Enjoy food but in the correct portion size.
  • Make fruits and vegetables the focus of your meal.
  • Include fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk and dairy products in your meals.
  • Select foods lower in sodium.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
This new icon is another in a long history of USDA Food Guides. In the 1940's visual tools started with the basic seven wheel that quickly became the Basic Four Guide to Good Eating in the late nineteen fifties. This educational tool was used for over twenty years. A fifth group was added in the late 1970's to provide guidance related to recommendations on fats, sweets, and alcohol. The Food Wheel was created in the mid-1980's for use in a Red Cross nutrition course which transitioned into the familiar Food Guide Pyramid in 1992. Although there was an update in 2005 to MyPyramid in an attempt to increase focus on activity, the triangular shape has been the national icon for nearly two decades, until now.

Here are some of the highlights of the new USDA circular icon.

The new MyPlate icon consists of four colored sections intended to teach people to build meals using fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein. There is also a smaller circle for dairy, suggesting a glass of low-fat milk or cup of yogurt for each meal. This visual provides the suggestion of selecting whole foods as the basis for healthy meal planning.

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. These bright colored sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber should fill half your plate whether fresh, frozen, 100% juice, steamed, or grilled. It is important to note that starchy vegetables are also included in the USDA lists. For those trying to control blood sugar levels, single serving carbohydrate information will be necessary as well for healthful meal planning with medical conditions in mind.

Make at least half your grains whole grains. Grains come in two groups – refined or enriched grains and whole grains. In your quest to get at least three servings or more of whole grains each day, look for the Whole Grains Council stamp on bread and pasta options.

Select all types of proteins. One fourth of the plate is for foods rich in protein. Lean meat is a good protein source as well as other high biological value options such as eggs or cheese. Nuts, nut butter, seeds, soy products, legumes and some grain products are all good protein choices without the meat as well. Selecting non-meat choices several times a week is a great way to move your diet toward a plant-based focus.

Include fat free or low-fat (1%) dairy with your meal. Milk provides nine essential nutrients necessary for health, four of which (calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin A) are frequently inadequate in an adults diet. The Dietary Guidelines recommend three servings of dairy a day. The USDA considers dairy to include all milks including lactose-free and lactose-reduced products and fortified soy beverages, yogurt, frozen yogurts, diary desserts and cheeses because of their calcium content. Cream, cream cheese, and sour cream would not be included because of their low calcium content.

The Bottom Line
While the USDA does not endorse any products, services, or organizations, they do offer recommendations for good health.
1. Build a healthy plate using the new MyPlate icon as a guide.
2. Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, (also known as SoFAS) and salt.
3. Eat the right amount of calories for you.
4. Be physically active your way.

We could not agree more with these recommendations and believe the new MyPlate icon will be a great new tool to help Americans build a healthy eating plan, one meal at a time. No icon or visual can tell the whole story without education that offers specific recommendations and guidelines. Here are a couple guidelines to help you make your plate healthy and useful in reaching your weight and health goals.

  • Select a 9- or 10-inch plate for your meal. Take a ruler and measure across the plate to be sure it is no larger.
  • Fill one-half of the plate with vegetables and fruits, either cooked or raw. For those that are trying to control blood sugar responses, fill one-half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables.
  • Fill one-fourth of the plate with a serving of protein such as nuts, nut butter, soy based product or grilled or roasted meat.
  • Fill the last fourth of the plate with a grain selection, whole grain if possible. For those seeking to control blood glucose responses, select a carbohydrate-rich choice equal to 15-grams of carbohydrate from starchy vegetables, fruits, or grains.
  • Add one cup (8 fl oz) of low-fat or fat-free milk or fortified soy beverage or one container (6-8 oz) of light yogurt to your meal.
  • Be sure your meal includes a serving or two of healthy fats from nuts, one or two teaspoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of mayonnaise or a tablespoon of salad dressing.
The new MyPlate icon will most likely serve as a helpful tool for many years to come to help all Americans balance their calories, increase healthy food choices while limiting unhealthy ones. We are very excited for this new educational tool.

What do you think of the new MyPlate icon? How do you think it will help you?

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KHALIA2 3/8/2019
Thanks! Report
Some of the links are broken. Would be nice if these articles were maintained and kept up to date. I'm looking for a job - want to hire me to do it??!! Report
Great article! Report
I love yogurt and usually eat it with mixed nuts! Report
I actually have that plate, the doctor gave it to me when she said I was Pre-Diabetic. Report
I wish they had never come out with a food "pyramid" and gone to this one right away! Report
I am relieved to see the date of the content as I was pretty sure I had seen the my plate a long time ago. But still a great reminder. Would be interesting to see my plate for special dietary needs. Report
While the plate idea is good, the inclusion of starchy vegetables in the vegetable category is a big mistake. By that definition, french fries are a vegetable, not a good idea. Report
I like the idea, but wish they'd use a smaller plate (compared to the fork) in the image. Again, we're encouraging people to eat off of platters, and even a balanced platter will contribute to the obesity epidemic--with people believing they're doing the RIGHT thing! Report
I have seen another version of the food guide that is a fan shape ... Enough already !
We have to measure....period ! Report
I have seen another version of the food guide that is a fan shape ... Enough already !
We have to measure....period ! Report
I have seen another version of the food guide that is a fan shape ... Enough already !
We have to measure....period ! Report
I agree that this is great unless you have a dish that is a combination dish like a casserole. It's hard to know how many veggies, grains, and proteins you have in said casserole. But at that point, I think common sense and calorie counting should come into play. It won't look exactly like the illustration above, but you will know if you are not eating correctly.

I've been eating this way (trying to) for a couple of years. It's a great tool, especially when you're eating a meal that someone else prepared, or you're at a dinner party. Report
We've been using the sectioned plate at weight watchers for several years especially at holiday time to plan meals. I like the plate because it's something practical that I use at every meal, and a smaller plate does help to manage portions. It's also helpful to visualize meals and add an extra item if you're falling short in one area. Report
Definitely easier to understand! Report
The plate is definitely an improvement over the pyramid, but I still think it's a silly way of measuring portions and balancing a diet. I seldom ever make one dish that is all "protein" and another dish that is just vegetables and another dish that is just grains. Report
I think it is a great idea. For most people, this is far more understandable than the old food pyramid. My nutrionist used the plate idea before and had already given me a 9-inch plate to use with pictures of what to put where, and in what size portions. I thought it was a great idea then. Report
I teach a science unit on Food and Nutrition. I teach the plate theory. "My Plate" is a great update. Easy to read and catchy. It helps me when I put dinner on the plate! Report
I love the new My Plate design - it is much more easy to visualize and will help when teaching children what to eat
I also like that it places more emphasis on fruits and veggies instead of breads (although, I must admit, I do so love breads haha) Report
I am a kindergarten teacher and I think the plate is a much easier tool to teach children about healthy eating. Report
I think it is finally correct. I think following the food pyramid promoted obesity rather than prevent it. Report
I love it and think it is easier to understand...however, as a teacher, I am really tired of having to teach this same concept so many different ways. It's like, just as my students learn one way (mypyramid) it changes. Report
Love the new plate!!! We need our whole grains & fruits & vegetables!!! Report
A member in my immediate family just recently found out they were diabetic and I have been submitting to sparkpeople for a little over a month now. Therefore the whole household has been struggling to follow serving sizes and how much of what is who "allowed" to eat. We all know abstractly how many servings from each food group we should eat but it has been difficult to devide that into the meals that we actually consume. I think this plate plan is a wonderful idea! It makes meals less abstract. I think it will be easier as a family to eat healthier when we actually can know and understand what it means to do so. Report
I like the new plate icon. It's much easier to understand. Report
I think the new design is alot easier to because everyone can relate it to how their plates look. I will be able to just glance at it to know what my plate should look like. Why did we have a pyramid to begin with? Report
Candy & Miles: There ARE portion plates out there. I have two. (One I got free at a health fair and another I bought myself. The one I bought myself was from Slimware ( ) Slimware used subtle designs to show you your portions so, when they are on the table no one but you knows it is a portion plate. I have the 10-1/2" yellow square with sunflower design. Somehow I just get so happy when I sit down at the table with my sunny yellow plate. The other plate I got free but, I know it came from (Mine came with the name of the local hospital on it. Oh well.

A friend made her own by getting a clear glass plate and using glass paint to draw portion sizes on her plate. (She's crafty; I'm not) Still, I think hers is pretty cool.

Someone else asked how you'd add veggies to breakfast. If you had an egg or eggwhite omelet in the morning, you could add veggies of anykind to your omelet. I start the day this way everyday, and it really fills me up.

I just got back from Ireland where they served us an "Irish fry" every day. It was 2 eggs overeasy, fruit, toast or baked beans, grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, and tea or coffee. Not only did this fill me up for most of the day, but I came back from my vacation 3 lbs slimmer! Way to go. Despite the name Irish Fry, it really wasn't fatty at all. Plus, we saw alot of people walking and riding bikes. Food for thought. LOL Report
I can understand this much better than the pyramid. Report
Love the new look. Report
Two thumbs up! Report
How cool is this plate???
The Adult Portion Control Plate on Report
I would just love the plate, it would be so easy to help with portion control. I once bought a blue plate and bowl, they are supposed to keep you from overeating, due to their colour, blue. It didn't really work for me. I probably just wasn't ready. Report
I've always been confused by the food pyramid, so anything that will make it easier to eat healthier is good. Maybe it's not perfect, or individually tailored for specific people or specific diets, but combined with my food plan, it should work pretty well. And if it doesn't ... so what? I haven't lost anything by having additional information. I especially like the idea for when I'm eating out. Report
I love the new plate!! I am a MOM and a Teacher - I love the simplicity that kids can see. Report
This idea is good per meal idea, but there are times I don't have fruit with one meal but I may the next. I think we need to keep this concept as many people do not understand about portions and how the plate should look at each meal. But it also doesn't tell us how much we should have through out the day. What about snacks, are we suppose to base our snacks on this plate. This is something to build on though. Report
I am not a big fan of this new "plate" as of yet. It may grow on me. I like the pyramid because it was more of a daily thing. Not a per meal thing. I may have more of one nutrient at 1 meal or another or less at another, but try to stay in my daily guidelines. It may work for people to start off with trying to do healthy meals, but I am so used to educating kids on the pyramid - will take some used to! Report
I tried the "myPlate" out today for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast was an egg, over easy, a slice of whole wheat toast with light butter, an orange (peeled) and baby carrots. On the side I had one fat free greek yogurt. I didn't track my calories before hand, and I used a 9" plate. After I ate, I tracked it, and it fit perfectly into my spark "calorie allotment" for pre-diabetes eating. It works, it's simple and easy to use, and many many people who aren't into nutrition can benefit tremendously from it. If people eating fast food one to two times daily (and there are lots of these people in our country) just tried to fit that fast food meal on this guide, they'd see that they're not meeting vegetable requirements. I have no problem adding some vegetables to my breakfast, I don't care if the tradition is to have eggs, toast, hashbrowns, pancakes etc etc. Get Over It! This isn't the 1950's, and we know a lot more about food and nutrition, so why do we insist on continuing to eat like we don't know better? Report
It's a new picture of what we know already! Report
Love the plate as opposed to the pyramid. Much easier to understand intuitively. Report
I've read as much as I can on this new idea but I'm still trying to digest it all. I think it's a great idea for those that tend not to eat/live a healthy lifestyle. This is a more sensible way to look at an old idea. Report
The new plate a great visual aid for anyone...into being mindful of their portion intake...and a healthy way of doing things...its great!!
I really like the sense and simplicity of it. Report
::Sigh:: I think most of the comments that disagree with this format have been removed. Mostly praise remains. Regardless of how I feel about the format, nobody with a brain likes only "yes" comments. Report
Candy, it was years & years ago, but i remember seeing plates designed with the portions that way. i'm sure you could find them online.... and if not, wait a week & i'm sure someone will patent it! Report
That socialist Ronald Reagan made me take the Presidential Fitness Test in 1984. GUBMINT OUT OF OUR LIVES !!!11!!1! Report
Now...let's get someone to make some plates that have the areas already marked. Our 6 yr old grandson might respond to that. I guess I could use permanent marker. Thoughts? Report
I like this diagram. I feel like understanding what a serving size is can be very hard, but knowing that half my plate needs fruits and vegetables, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 whole grains is really a better visual understanding. =) Report
I think this is a great visual as well. I think it will not only help adults, but help when trying to educate children on nutrition. Visuals always help and this links it to a more personal level.

As some others have stated that it has too many grains, if you stick with portion sizes and use the proper size plate, 1/2 cup of grains will take up a quarter of your plate. Also, it gives you a visual, it does not say how much is in each section. This leaves room for individualization. Report
As others have wisely said--it's a good icon, but there is no one size fits all eating plan. I am one of the exceptions; I would get sick, quickly. I started looking at solid (peer-reviewed; results reproduced) years ago to learn what would work. I am sad that solid research appears to be excluded from the icon but glad! it is published and accessible for us to use. Report
I think America needs a 3-D representation because I know we Americans can pile the food on any plate. Report