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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 09/20/2011

Dishing up a different healthful-eating plate

The folks at the Harvard School of Public Health have a few bones to pick with the federal government’s MyPlate healthful-eating icon.

They’ve aired their differences in the newly released (and not-so-catchily named) “Healthy Eating Plate.” The new plate looks a lot like MyPlate but with revisions and add-ons that its creators argue offer a more accurate picture of what nutritious diet should look like.

A press release announcing the new icon contends that USDA’s MyPlate was cooked up with too much input from powerful agricultural interests, whose influence led to MyPlate’s allowing too much space for dairy, red meat, potatoes and refined grains. By contrast, the press release says, the new plate is based on the latest science.

MyPlate’s simple design was meant to counter the complicated yet surprisingly uninformative food pyramid graphic it replaced. People desiring more detail can dig deeper on the Web site.

But the new plate’s makers argue that MyPlate skimps over much, giving the impression that, for instance, there’s no difference between whole grains and refined ones (when in fact the 2010 Dietary Guidelines want us to make at least half the grains we eat whole because whole grains are more nutritious) and that all protein foods are created alike (when fish or beans are far better choices than hot dogs and hamburgers). Nor did MyPlate acknowledge the role healthful fats play in a nutritious diet. In the new iteration, a cruet of oil takes its place next to the plate.

Dairy products suffer most at HSPH’s hand. Where a glass perched next to MyPlate suggested people include plenty of dairy in their diets, that spot now is reserved for water and other non-caloric beverages such as coffee and tea. Consuming too much dairy, the new plate suggests, may do your body more harm than good.

The Healthy Eating Plate certainly does MyPlate one better by including a red icon shaped like a person running. That dashing little fellow’s meant to represent physical activity, a key component of good health for which MyPlate left no space.

Do you think the Healthy Eating Plate is an improvement over MyPlate?

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 09/20/2011

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