New USDA Food Chart Looks Weird But Works


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?


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nonmember avatar Brianna

Being vegan I eat a lot more vegetables, grains, and fruits than most people already. And I get my protein from various sources. This plate looks pretty close to my average meal...I educated myself on healthy eating as all people should. It's sad that in this day and age with all the information available we still have to have campaigns like this. Kudos to Michelle Obama though. I'm behind her idea 100%. Hopefully she will emphasize nutritional education to the point that people feel empowered enough to teach themselves.

RanaA... RanaAurora

The problem for the protein section is that many veggies and dairy have important protein already, and Americans often get way TOO much. But honestly, people do need to see PRODUCE as the bulk of their meals, not meat. I think it could help.

bills... billsfan1104

This is what I have been following since I joined weight watchers. I have lost 23.4lbs since I joined Feb 3th.

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

I don't like it. Very few people who eat a healthy diet arrange their plates that way. I very rarely make a meal that features a pile of protein, a pile of grains, and a pile of produce. It's far more common for me to make something like a stir fry or casserole. Tonight for example I'm making a curry with chickpeas and eggplant, served with rice. I know it's healthy and has everything a balanced meal needs but breaking it up to fit that plate wiuld be a pain. I betting people are going to look at that and think they just need to have a slightly smaller portion of fried carcass and an extra scoop of green beans coated in canned mushroom soup.

I also wish they'd get rid of the dairy thing. There are plenty of ways to get calcium and protein and all the essentials without drinking milk. It's ridiculous that the USDA is in charge of dealing us what we should eat for good health when they're also in charge of promoting agricultural products like milk. They wind up pushing people to do unhealthy things like consuming dairy.

Dannielle Richins

Great change for the food pyramid.

For me, I would drink a glass of water before I would drink a glass of milk with dinner. Milk is nasty.



Dannielle Richins


I don't believe they are suggesting every meal should appear as the image shows, it is more of visual idea of portion sizes for the food groups relative to one another.

And you're right, this doesn't fix the way people view "healthy" and "unhealthy" foods. One woman on the Dr. Oz show said "I'm not feeding my son unhealthy food, but he's still obese" and the guest doctor replied with "well a bowl of noodles has the same calories as a bowl of ice cream, so what is your idea of healthy?"

Our idea of healthy foods is way off, and that desperately needs to be addressed and taught to parents and children alike.

I feel like a lot of families 'get it' - they eat right, they are educated and make proper food choices for their families, but there is a still a huge number of families out there that just DON'T get it, and they need something like the food pyramid to help them gain some sort of idea for portion control. Not every family needs help in this area, but those that do can benefit from these types of changes.

Nicho... NicholasMama608

Actually if you are having iron on your plate you shouldn't drink calcium because calcium inter fies with how your body absorbs iron.  The best thing to drink with a meal is water and drink milk after your meal has settled so that you get the most of the nutrients in your food.

evwsq... evwsquared

I think that it looks great! If it doesn't look like how most Americans eat now, well, that's exactly what this is trying to address, right? They aren't doing it right! I don't understand why it's weird?

nonmember avatar pleasepassthe

before Michelle Obama promotes any healthy lifestyles, She needs to lose some of her backside and get Barak off the most unhealthy thing like his cigarettes. Also she needs to lay off happy meals and such. Its not the Fast Food Industry who opens the american's wallet to purchase food. America has been well educated,but they are the one who ultimately chooses their lifestyle. Bullying and threatening companies is not going to help an failing economy.

Lesli... Lesliemom2mzjm

This is what most of our meals look like anyway.  When they don't, I don't worry because our in-between meal snacks usually consist of fruit, stuff like celery with peanut butter, yogurt or low fat cheese, instead of junk like chips and sweets.  We have been drinking cokes now and then (and by that, I mean maybe 2x a week), but it's not a staple.  I do allow a sweet a day.  We don't rule anything out completely, but neither is our meals loaded with junk.  We also don't completey rule out fast food, although we rarely indulge.  It's more of a treat than anything.  My 12 yr old DD and 9 yr old DS are always up for a salad for dinner, just add a boiled egg at least.   Raw veggies are welcome.  I will admit my kids like a lot of TV, video and computer time, but that's balanced out with baseball, swimming and karate.  I mean, what 9 and 7 year old boys have 6 packs?  We never paid any attention to the food pyramid and neither will we pay any attention to this whatever they call it.  We use what's called COMMON SENSE!

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