Why did they change the food pyramid? Because it wasn’t promoting healthy eating. In 2011, partly as a response to a rise in obesity and diabetes, the USDA introduced “My Plate” to represent the revised standards for the American diet they released in 2010.
The updated image shows a plate divided into 4 sections and a side. About half of the plate is made of fruits and vegetables with the other half being grains and protein. It shows a little more grain than protein, and a little more vegetable than fruit. It also includes a small side of dairy. This was definitely a healthy upgrade from the previous food pyramid which suggested half as many servings of vegetables as grains. The old pyramid suggested up to 11 servings from the “Bread, cereals, rice and pasta group,” and also suggested equal amounts of dairy and protein.
While this new version is better by far, Harvard School of Public Health has taken this new model offered by the USDA and addressed inadequacies of the new guidelines. They created what they call “The Healthy Eating Plate.” For those of us who don’t adapt well to change, they’ve also created an updated version of the pyramid. The foundation of this pyramid pictures balanced eating and exercise.
Harvard enhances their plate with a reminder to stay active and adds water on the side. It also has a side item, but suggests healthy oils rather than dairy. Milk is a limited menu item, along with juice and a reminder to avoid sugary drinks. Dairy is included as a protein and is also suggested in limited amounts, as is red meat. Healthy proteins include fish, poultry and Beans. The Harvard version doesn’t set a maximum number of calories from fat, suggesting that eating a balanced diet and choosing healthy oils is enough for a healthy diet.
This healthier version also advises that half the plate be fruits and vegetables, but it recommends about 2/3 vegetables and 1/3 fruit, instead of closer to half and half. Fruits have more sugar and should be eaten more conservatively than vegetables. They updated the “Grain” category, that once suggested mostly refined flour products, and they call it “Whole Grains,” to remind us to eat more of these and less refined products. Eating whole grains gives you more nutrition from the plants too, like more fiber.