Today is the last day of this column on Beliefnet.com. After over 12 years of daily writings on Beliefnet, I’m moving on. I thank God for this wonderful experience. As far as I’ve been told, I’m the last original Beliefnet contributing editor and writer; everyone else is new. Now, however, I need to make some […]
A new nutrition campaign has arrived from the USDA with new food guidelines, including a replacement for the old USDA Food Guide Pyramid: an official new set of U.S. Dietary Guidelines. It was unveiled on June 2nd – a colorful dinner plate divided into 4 sections with a side glass for dairy, along with revised nutritional guidelines.
Finally, the USDA is catching up with eating mostly vegetables and fruits and less protein and grains — what we’ve been talking about, and trying to adopt for a long time. The old Food Pyramid was a bit overly complicated, and recommended too many carbohydrates. They had a hard time including exercise and recreation into it, too, so that’s been dropped.
Take a look at the new MyPlate diagram: notice how it’s recommending half our daily diet consist of vegetables (the green section) and fruits (the red section), about ¼ protein (purple), and ¼ grains (orange for carbohydrates), with half of those as whole grains. Off to the side is a circle symbolizing the dairy group.
There’s a brand new USDA website devoted to the new diagram and dietary recommendations, too – it’s www.ChooseMyPlate.gov. It’s very well designed and informative, with sections on basic nutrition, balancing calories, tips for what to reduce and what to increase, details on the five groups and lots of healthier recipes. They’ve packed it with links and downloads for additional resources, weight loss, and general dietary guidelines. Also, they include ideas for increasing and maintaining a physical exercise routine.
The new guidelines and programs were introduced by First Lady Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin in a news conference.
From the USDA’s June 2nd news release:
“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. “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.”
“With so many food options available to consumers, it is often difficult to determine the best foods to put on our plates when building a healthy meal,” said Secretary Vilsack. “MyPlate is an uncomplicated symbol to help remind people to think about their food choices in order to lead healthier lifestyles. This effort is about more than just giving information, it is a matter of helping people understand there are options and practical ways to apply them to their daily lives.”
“The new icon is simple and easy to understand, with more emphasis placed on fruits and vegetables,” said U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin. “This new tool can be a fun way to help individuals and families make healthier meal choices. I encourage all Americans to follow the new dietary guidelines and become familiar with the new icon because it will serve as a compass to a healthy and fit nation.”
Originally identified in the Child Obesity Task Force report which noted that simple, actionable advice for consumers is needed, MyPlate will replace the MyPyramid image as the government’s primary food group symbol as an easy-to-understand visual cue to help consumers adopt healthy eating habits consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. MyPyramid will remain available to interested health professionals and nutrition educators in a special section of the new website.
ChooseMyPlate.gov provides practical information to individuals, health professionals, nutrition educators, and the food industry to help consumers build healthier diets with resources and tools for dietary assessment, nutrition education, and other user-friendly nutrition information. As Americans are experiencing epidemic rates of overweight and obesity, the online resources and tools can empower people to make healthier food choices for themselves, their families, and their children. Later this year, USDA will unveil an exciting “go-to” online tool that consumers can use to personalize and manage their dietary and physical activity choices.
Over the next several years, USDA will work with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’sMove! initiative and public and private partners to promote MyPlate and ChooseMyPlate.gov as well as the supporting nutrition messages and “how-to” resources.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, launched in January of this year, form the basis of the federal government’s nutrition education programs, federal nutrition assistance programs, and dietary advice provided by health and nutrition professionals.
The Guidelines messages include:
- Enjoy your food, but eat less.
- Avoid oversized portions.
Foods to Increase
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
- Make at least half your grains whole grains
Foods to Reduce
- Compare sodium (salt) in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and choose foods with lower numbers.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Coupled with these tested, actionable messages will be the “how-tos” for consumer behavior change. A multi-year campaign calendar will focus on one action-prompting message at a time starting with “Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables.”
“What we have learned over the years is that consumers are bombarded by so many nutrition messages that it makes it difficult to focus on changes that are necessary to improve their diet,” said Secretary Vilsack. “This new campaign calendar will help unify the public and private sectors to coordinate efforts and highlight one desired change for consumers at a time.”
As part of this new initiative, USDA wants to see how consumers are putting MyPlate in to action by encouraging consumers to take a photo of their plates and share on Twitter with the hash-tag #MyPlate. USDA also wants to see where and when consumers think about healthy eating. Take the plate and snap a photograph with MyPlate to share with our USDA Flickr Photo Group [ http://www.flickr.com/groups/choosemyplate/].