Earlier this year the USDA unveiled its new MyPlate icon (pictured below) that replaced the obsolete food pyramid. Most people agreed it was an improvement. Fruits, vegetables and grains were given prominence over protein.



There were two consistent complaints I heard from those who commented about the new icon. The first was that milk was given a spot on the icon. Milk is a specific food, not a food group, and it is not a necessity for a healthy, balanced diet. It could have easily been lumped in with proteins. Many people speculated that the dairy lobby had something to do with the glass of milk being pictured on the icon.


The second major complaint I heard was that the icon gave no mentions of specific foods (except for milk) within food groups. The words fruits and vegetables are fairly easy to interpret on their own, but grains and protein are not as self-explanatory. People might translate protein into red meat every night and never think of beans or yogurt as protein. They might translate grains into toaster waffles and white bread instead of whole grain oatmeal or quinoa.


A group from Harvard Health Publications worked with nutrition experts at Harvard School of Public Health to create the Healthy Eating Plate (pictured below), a revised version of the USDA’s MyPlate.



This version of the icon addresses the two major complaints. The milk in the glass is replaced with water. The various components now have explanations and ideal choices in each category, including what choices should be limited.


Harvard has done a good job of adding some important information to the USDA’s icon. An icon like this can only do so much, though. It’s still up to individuals to choose the right foods for themselves and up to parents and schools to choose healthy foods for children.


Do you think Harvard did a better job than the USDA in creating a simple visual to guide healthy eating?


Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Harvard enhances USDA's MyPlate
Nutrition experts create the Healthy Eating Plate, a makeover of MyPlate that includes more specific eating information.