The iconic food pyramid so many of us grew up with has been replaced with an all-new symbol aimed at making it easier for Americans to make healthier food choices. The new, simpler image—a plate divided into four sections for fruit, vegetables, grains and protein, with an adjacent circle representing dairy—was unveiled by First Lady Michelle Obama in early June as part of her signature campaign against obesity.
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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin joined Mrs. Obama at the unveiling of the new image and corresponding campaign to communicate essential dietary guidelines to consumers. In the weeks preceding the announcement, there was great speculation as to what the image would look like, with many dietitians and nutrition experts voicing their support for abandoning the old pyramid in favor of a simplified approach.
The plate was developed by the Department of Agriculture with input from nutrition and public health experts, as well as an estimated 4,500 focus-group participants, including children. The primary goal of the new image is to help educate consumers about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, released earlier this year. The first phase of the campaign focuses on urging people to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables; subsequent phases will address things like portion sizes and choosing water over sodas and juices.
Initial responses to the new image from organizations such as the American Dietetic Association and Weight Watchers have been largely favorable. Certainly, says Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer for the American Council on Exercise, “the plate’s simple graphic and clear message makes it ideal for use with clients looking to make positive changes to their diets.” To support the new icon, the USDA developed an all-new interactive Web site: www.choosemyplate.gov, which offers consumers great tools and tips for making healthier choices.
Time will tell if the plate proves more effective than its predecessor. “If the new plate-shaped symbol actually makes a difference in helping Americans change what and how much they eat,” says Bryant, “it will have a major impact on our nation’s fight against the obesity epidemic. The ultimate challenge will be getting individuals to change their dietary behaviors and eat what’s represented on the new plate.”
The American Council on Exercise supports the efforts of the First Lady and the Let’s Move campaign to eliminate obesity in America. In addition to developing new nutritional guidelines and tools, this program mirrors ACE’s mission by creating opportunities for Americans of all ages to become more active.