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The End of the Pyramid Scheme: The Rise of MyPlate

Now, as part of the FLOTUS (Michelle Obama’s) ongoing nutritional efforts, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, something new has been introduced that dismantles the flawed Food Pyramid once and for all. Check out MyPlate, which is a more basic graphic depicting a dinner plate split into four quadrants, with an accompanying cup or side plate.

The graphic is obviously more user friendly and intuitive (we don’t generally eat off of pyramids, but plates are common when we are not consuming our meals out of Burger King bags while attempting to drive). The Agriculture Department has also launched an accompanying website to promote the new “plate” idea, which includes tip sheets that encourage Americans to eat fish twice a week and avoid high-fat and salty foods. The new plate icon, while being an ideal graphic for those of us who detest the idea of having our foods mixed together, is also a means of simplifying the message. In essence, it is an attempt to make us more mindful and disciplined about what we are eating, not just on a daily basis, but also meal by meal.
Assuredly the MyPlate development is an improvement, but hardly a perfect solution to the longstanding problem of how to promote good and balanced nutrition. The icon alone doesn’t address things like portion size or the fact that the protein quadrant is exceedingly vague, as grains and dairy can all contain significant amounts of protein (that said, it is nice to finally see meat replaced by the more interpretive “protein”).

What is your feeling on MyPlate? Is this an improvement on the old model? Do these sorts of charts and graphs actually make an impact on national nutrition, or are they an abundant waste of money (the current MyPlate campaign required around two million in tax dollars to happen)? How could this model be greatly improved to actually reach out to the people that need this guidance the most?

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Fitness, Following Food, Food, General Health, , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


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11:45AM PDT on Apr 9, 2013

Did anyone ever really understand what the food pyramid, and then My Pyramid were about? I could grasp the 7 basic food groups. The food pyramid blurred it, and the "Improvement" totally confused it. The plate is still annoyingly obtuse.

4:26PM PST on Nov 18, 2011


11:20AM PDT on Aug 5, 2011

I had never heard of Joel Fuhrman's food pyramid, so I googled it. (The chart itself is at
This pyramid is fantastic! I honestly don't ever expect to eat in accordance with that pyramid, but it's a lot better goal than the UDSA "guides"! Thank you, Adam K.

2:41AM PDT on Aug 2, 2011

both suggestions are good. the plate gives a symbolic aspect ,as if you are eating out of a plate . it gives a mental picture so kids can easily remember....but the pyramid gives info of how much % to eat and the pictures of those foods which are in a particular category .... i think both are fine.

1:03PM PDT on Jun 25, 2011

I'd have to go with Joel Fuhrman's food pyramid which has at its base fruit and vegetables, then beans, then nuts and seeds, then whole grains, then optional. If people don't want to follow the food advice, they don't have to, but at least the science is good and they will live if they follow the advice. As it stands they won't live if they follow the advice. Now you tell me what that constitutes in the law, giving people bad food advice that they die if they follow it.

11:49PM PDT on Jun 14, 2011

This is an improvement on the pyramid because it is graphically intuitive.

5:33PM PDT on Jun 14, 2011

the plate is deffinitely a big improvement, but i think people need to realize that they're not going to get all the imformation they need about eating healthy from a graphic. you really need to know potion sizes (which you can find on food labels), what's best for you personally, and a bunch of other things.
that said my plate is deffinitely a more helpful guide than the previous pyramids, especially if you visit the website.

8:43PM PDT on Jun 11, 2011

Appreciate the update!

7:11PM PDT on Jun 11, 2011

As it states in the article, I like that it uses "proteins" instead of "meats". This plate is a redo much needed.
@Annemarie W, thanks for that website. I live on the Pacific Coast in Central America and in our little town, we are seeing the effects of overfishing as well as complete disregard for fishing laws. I'll pass the site on.

5:56PM PDT on Jun 11, 2011

@Khat: "Protein" is not synonymous with "meat" or even "animal products." It includes legumes (dried beans & peas) and nuts. No seeds?? Grains are seeds; nuts and beans are seeds, for that matter, and they're both protein foods. Lots of our vegetables are seeds, too, or are eaten with the seeds (like young squash, and green beans). What kind of seeds are you thinking of, that are missing here?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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