Today, Thursday, June 2nd, 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) retired the national Food Guide Pyramid, which was supposed to teach Americans how to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. This unsuccessful guide to teach people about balanced portions of the various food groups never really caught on with the general public. CNN correspondent, Drew Griffin, said it best, “I never ate a meal or made a food decision based on the food pyramid, what is the new icon going to mean?”

The new icon is in the shape of a plate and it is meant to show how to balance the various food groups on a plate. As you can see, we have about a quarter of the plate filled with the Grain/Starch food group, a quarter of the plate filled with Vegetables, a little less than a quarter filled with Protein and the same for Fruit. Last of all, some Dairy is on the side to insinuate the drink at the meal. In addition, the USDA states on their website, to enjoy your food, eat less, avoid oversized portions, make half your plate full of fruits and veggies, half your grains as whole grains, use fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk, and drink water.

The new plate method is a better representation of how to eat a well-balanced diet in comparison to the old food guide pyramid. However, the new plate method still doesn’t tell people how much a portion is and how many at each meal one should eat. In addition, some plates, such as fiesta-ware, are so huge that a quarter of the plate could result in consuming 2 cups of a grain which would be a greater portion than generally recommended to most to consume in one meal. (For example, most of my clients are recommended to consume ½ cup to 1 cup of a grain/starch per meal). So the USDA has improved slightly with displaying balance, however, they still fall short on adequate portion size recommendations of the various food groups. Depending on your plate size, be wary of the clean plate club recommendation because portion sizes still matter.

Sarah Koszyk, MA, RD, is a nutrition coach at Eating Free who cooks with love and loves to eat.

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