Use the New MyPlate Icon Wisely

20x26" Laminate Poster $24.99

The USDA has replaced the food pyramid with a plate icon.

NUTRITION It's a step in the right direction. The new MyPlate icon is an improvement over the equivocal pyramid symbol for national dietary meal portions. [1]

Old Food Pyramid Problems

There have been several food pyramids since 1992. It seemed from the rise in obesity that the only practical application of the pyramid was to narrow towards the top while piling food on a plate. Since pyramids were never popular in the United States, the visual association was foreign, even dead from the start.

The pyramid produced in 2000 had food groups apportioned in the shape of a black pyramid with the following criticism: At the base are breads, cereal and pasta — up to 11 servings a day. Veggies and fruits are next, with two-to-five servings. As the pyramid narrows, it suggests eating fewer dairy products, eggs and meat servings. At the tip are fats and sweets — to be used "sparingly." As sensible as it may sound, Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health says the food pyramid is "a license to overeat." [2] The last food pyramid was modified with stripes of color to include steps denoting exercise. Those with gluten intolerance balked at prominence of grains. [3]

Opinions on New MyPlate Icon


The new MyPlate icon conveys an easier-to-grasp apportionment concept but is not without faults. It relies on English (or Spanish) text labels while the United States is a melting pot of languages. Hence, when the icon is reduced and text becomes illegible, food group identification is lost without separate legend. There is also a lack of depth proportion. Does the blue circle represent a 4 ounce dish of yogurt or a 24 ounce glass of milk shake? Fortunately, the website fills in details that aren't obvious in the graphic. Dairy: milk, milk-based desserts, calcium-fortified soy milk, cheese, or yogurt. So the graphic is reliant upon common sense or an Internet connection to make wise choices. Even with these faults, it is significantly better than the pyramid uses a visual within the everyday vernacular of U.S. citizens.

It is helpful to memorize the color associations. Fortunately they have not changed since the last food pyramid: Fruits: red; Vegetables: green; Protein: purple; Grains: orange; Dairy: blue. The label "protein" instead of meat, takes into account vegetarians. Equal amounts of vegetables and grains make up the larger daily portions. Fruits and protein are represented as equal but slightly smaller portions on the plate.

Practical uses for the MyPlate icon go beyond posters and leaflets. Should food containers with preformed sections be refashioned with compartments sized according to the MyPlate icon? Can cafeteria and salad bar plates can be silkscreened with the MyPlate grid? Of course, the plate cannot always be taken literally. Rather, it represents cumulative portions that are recommended throughout the day. For example a fruit snack may be consumed between breakfast and lunch.

Now that Michelle Obama has finally revealed the national symbol for health, this new icon has been incorporated into a several MyPlate posters available from

Tags: dietician, dietitian, healthy eating

  1. Choose MyPlate.
  2. Is the Food Pyramid Obsolete?
  3. Debunking Conventional Myths: The Food Pyramid. CrossFit Intrepid