Health Buzz: USDA Replaces Food Pyramid With Dinner Plate

Federal dietary guidelines fall short; use these 8 foods to help you lose weight.

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The new USDA food plate.

USDA Replaces Food Pyramid With Dinner Plate Icon

The federal government is forgoing the decades-old food pyramid in favor of a new icon: a dinner plate. The symbol, which will be unveiled today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is touted as a more straightforward way to dish out healthy eating advice. It's part of an initiative to convey seven messages from the 2011 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including: fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables; opt for water over sugary drinks; and switch to fat-free or low-fat milk. The food pyramid, a rainbow-striped triangle with a staircase edge, was introduced in 1992 and updated in 2005; nutritionists often criticized it as difficult to read. The new icon, meanwhile, is expected to feature four sections. Half the plate will be filled with fruits and veggies, another section will include rice, cereal, and other grains, and the rest will contain lean protein. A smaller circle to the side will represent dairy, such as milk or yogurt. "It may not be the magic bullet to get everyone eating right, but it is a step in the right direction—a simple and clear tool to promote balance, portions, variety and wholesome food at mealtime," registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner told USA Today.

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  • For Realistic Advice on Healthy Eating, Federal Dietary Guidelines Fall Short

    Quick: How many milligrams of sodium did you eat during the Super Bowl?

    If your big game buffet included choices like hot dogs, buffalo wings, fries, and cole slaw, you probably blew through your day's allowance of sodium in a single meal, according to the most recent edition of the federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These comprehensive guidelines for healthy eating, which are updated every five years to reflect the latest scientific data, advise that healthy adults and children ages 2 and older consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Adults over 50, or those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease, should consume less than 1,500 mg. Unfortunately, only 1 in 7 of us currently meets those targets; the average American consumes 3,400 mg of sodium per day, family physician Kenny Lin writes for U.S. News.

    Eating too much sodium leads to high blood pressure, which increases risk of a heart attack, stroke, and kidney problems. Two studies published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Annals of Internal Medicine estimated that reducing average sodium intake by 1,200 mg per day could prevent up to 92,000 deaths each year and save more than $30 billion in medical costs by 2050. [Read more: For Realistic Advice on Healthy Eating, Federal Dietary Guidelines Fall Short.]

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    • Use These 8 Foods to Help You Lose Weight

      Sure, we all know the basic nutrition rules when it comes to safeguarding our health and losing weight. In the words of best-selling nutrition writer Michael Pollan, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Sounds simple, but if you're interested in maximizing the amount of nutrients you get, you may want to be a little choosy when selecting among various options in each food group. Some fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products stand out as nutritional superstars, according to the latest research. And they're also easy on the calorie count to help you shed pounds, fitness blogger Ryan Sullivan writes for U.S. News. Consider incorporating these foods into your daily meal plan:

      1. Watermelon. It's not only delicious, but packs a wallop of antioxidants like vitamins A and C. It also contains lycopene, a plant chemical found in studies to lower your risk of cancer, heart disease and age-related vision loss due to macular degeneration. Just as gratifying: One cup of cubed watermelon contains less than 50 calories, not too damaging for your waistline.