All Hail the Plate!

By Toni Hartley, MPH, RD, LDN

As I’m sure most of you have already heard, the Food Guide Pyramid is dead. And it’s about time.

This is not the new USDA plate, but I hope it looks pretty similar. Courtesy of

As I type this, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has not yet unveiled its replacement nutrition education tool, but from what I’ve gathered, it will be shaped like a plate. Divided into quarters, the plate will aim to show Americans how to make a balanced meal by filling one quarter of their plates with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter with fruits, one quarter with high-fiber grains or starchy vegetables and one quarter with protein. Sounds like the Idaho Plate Method to me. Which is great news for those of us who believe balance is best.

As a registered dietitian (colloquially, a nutritionist), I am pleased as punch to say goodbye to embarrassing attempts to explain the Food Guide Pyramid’s baffling recommendations to my patients.  Aim for a certain number of servings of green leafy veggies per week? Rainbow-colored pillars with meats and fruits spilling out of the bottom? Who understood or had time to implement the former pyramid’s teachings? Not this gal.

Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand that creating nutrition guidelines for an intensely diverse population of American eaters is quite an undertaking. (For a more comprehensive look at the history of food and nutrition recommendations in America, check out this chapter from the USDA Economic Research Service’s book America’s Eating Habits: Changes and Consequences.) The good folks who have throughout the years done the nutrition research, translated the findings, and created usable education tools to teach us how to properly nourish ourselves did a bang up job. I am simply hopeful that a meal-based, balance-focused nutrition education tool could be the strongest idea yet.

According to the food blog Obama Foodorama, First Lady Michelle Obama will reveal the new plate tool live this morning at 10:45 a.m. EST at I’ll be tuned in and hoping for the best.

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