By Margaret Badore for DietsInReview.com
The coming school year will be the first since MyPlate was introduced by the USDA and Michelle Obama as the official replacement for MyPyramid. The real success of the new icon is yet to be determined, and lies much in the hands of the educators who will use it in their classrooms. Many schools are preparing to incorporate MyPlate into their curricula for all age groups, and it is also already being used in nutrition education for adults and families.
“MyPyramid has gone through changes over its lifetime,” Sharre Littrell told DietsInReview in an interview. “I would say that this is the first one that I feel is really consumer-friendly, because we don’t eat in a pyramid. We eat on a plate.”
Littrell is an adult and youth nutrition educator for UC Davis Cooperative Extension (UCCE), an organization that helps educate communities in California about healthy eating. In the fall, UCCE educators will visit about 55 low-income schools to teach both students and teachers about healthy foods and to distribute curricula for future use. Although the school year hasn’t started yet, Littrell has been using the MyPlate icon in family educational sessions offered by a number of different programs.
For Littrell and her colleague Josie Rucklose, incorporating MyPlate into an existing lesson plans was not much of a challenge because MyPyramid is based on the many of the same underlying principles. “We’re already talking about fruit and vegetable consumption, we’re already talking about whole grain consumption, but what we get to do now is incorporate that by showing them a plate,” explained Littrell.
Other educators concur. “Instead of including MyPyramid, you can just easily switch it to MyPlate and do really similar lessons,” said Len Saunders, author of Keeping Kids Fit and P.E. teacher. “It’s just a little bit easier to explain it to the children when it’s on a plate. Trying to find out how a pyramid resembles food is very hard for some young kids.”
Most teachers feel that MyPlate is an improvement over MyPyramid, because it’s simpler and delivers a more concrete message. “It’s interesting because it’s not really a different concept. It’s a different way to present the concept. From my point of view, the pyramid is more academic,” said Concepcion Mendoza, PhD and the UCCE program adviser. “But MyPlate is the application of this knowledge in the most practical way.”
Furthermore, there are many older and alternative food pyramids competing with the MyPyramid icon. “There’s about 50 different versions,” said Saunders. “It got a little bit confusing for the kids to understand.”