by Toni Tarver
Earlier this month, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled a new icon to help U.S. consumers make better food choices: the MyPlate icon. To elaborate further on what the icon represents and why it was developed, Robert Post, Deputy Director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, and Sam Kass, Assistant Chef for the White House, held a press conference on Monday, June 13, at the IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo.
The MyPlate icon was introduced to replace the pyramid graphic because the latter was too complicated for most consumers to understand and follow. However, the goal of the new icon remains the same as that of the pyramid: to help consumers distinguish which foods constitute a healthy meal. “MyPlate is a simple visual reminder to help consumers make better choices and encourage them to eat more produce,” Post said. Consequently, the icon’s design conveys the primary message that vegetables and fruit should constitute half of each meal. The simplicity of the icon also allows consumers to customize their daily meals according to whatever their dietary preferences are. For example, instead of referring to the meat, poultry, and seafood food group, MyPlate simply refers to protein, accounting for the fact that vegetarians and vegans prefer to get their protein from beans, nuts, or eggs instead of meat or meat products.
The MyPlate icon represents an essential framework not only for consumers but also chefs, Kass added. Moreover, the graphic translates to different cultural dietary plans and ethnic dishes. Kass also emphasized the importance of remembering that one icon cannot solve all health food-related health issues (e.g., obesity, diabetes, etc.), but it is a significant step in the right direction. “One of the key messages is ‘enjoy your food but eat less,’” he said.
The simplicity of the MyPlate icon facilitates greater understanding among all consumers in the quest to plan healthier meals by distinguishing proper dietary intakes.