New USDA Food Chart Looks Weird But Works

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usda food chartMichelle Obama and officials from the USDA unveiled an image of a colorful four-part nutrition plate Thursday that will replace the 19-year-old food pyramid we've all come to know and loathe. The new design is part of her campaign against obesity and is aimed at giving Americans an idea of what their meals should look like.

Nutritionists often criticized the old pyramid image for being confusing and misleading. (Oh, and for not having any food on it.) For the most part, they seem to be praising the new chart because it's easy to understand and emphasizes healthy foods.

The only problem? It looks weird, or -- more accurately -- it doesn't look like the typical plate you'd find on the dinner table in most American homes. Michelle Obama's definitely got her work cut out for her in terms of changing what Americans eat.

Nutritionists may think the new image is an improvement, but there are plenty of people who aren't going to be so happy with it.

For instance, it's probably going to piss off a lot of meat-lovers: The chart doesn't actually say, "Eat less meat," but it's there if you read between the lines. For many of us, meat takes center stage at mealtimes. But according to the new recommendations, "protein," which is the category meat falls under, should occupy less than a quarter of the space on the plate. Here's Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, explaining why the new image may look weird to the average American eater.

You can show someone and say, "Your dinner plate should look like this." And they'll say you're out of your mind. For most of us meat has made up most of the meal. This is a huge change, and I think it's courageous.

Also, people who guzzle soda like there's no tomorrow aren't going to be happy, either. The new chart recommends drinking dairy with your meal -- specifically fat-free or low-fat milk -- according to the official website. And, later phases of Michelle Obama's "Choose My Plate" campaign will instruct consumers to drink water instead of sugary drinks (like soda).

Finally, the fruit- and vegetable-haters in the bunch are out of luck, too. According to the new chart, those foods should make up at least half your meal.

All in all, the new food image is successful in that it clearly lays out exactly what constitutes a healthy meal -- something the old food pyramid never did. Now all we have to do is hope "weird" becomes the norm for most Americans.

How close does your plate look to the new USDA food chart?