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MyPlate: Controversies in Replacing the USDA Food Pyramid

Updated on May 7, 2018
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty uses advanced degrees in preventive medicine and health psychology in research and treatment for public and private health agencies.

The Food Pie Chart: MyPlate or The Plate

NOTE: Dairy products are really not on the plate at all - they stand off to the side. This raises questions.
NOTE: Dairy products are really not on the plate at all - they stand off to the side. This raises questions. | Source

The Pyramid Comes Down

Does anyone remember the Four Food Groups from the last century? Some Americans continue to use this nutrition scheme, because they feel it is less restrictive and more easy to follow than the Food Pyramid. However, even the pyramid has been replaced, this time with a plate.

The plate diagram of the USDA was unveiled on June 2, 2011 by First Lady Michelle Obama All types of groups and bloggers guessed what it wold include and how full or how empty it might be. Americans worried that the plate would be too restrictive to their diets. Food manufacturers and farmer worried that the plate would reduce their incomes.

What we learned in the end is it would be called MyPlate and be half filled with fruits and vegetables, and half with everything else: less of all the rest, and very little sugar, salt, and fats. Some communities were upset that elected leaders initiated a soda tax to limit their spending on their favorite sugary drinks. some communities even eliminated the ability to sell large drinks over 16 ounces in fast food and convenience stores. People became angry.

A Healthier Alternative

This new plate nutrition chart is healthier overall than the Food Pyramid, because the pyramid's formulaic proportions are, as revealed to me by cattle ranchers in 1992, used as a nutritional scheme to fatten up beef cattle for sale at market. This has been accomplished for many decades.

The cattle fattening framework is not called a "food pyramid for cattle", but the proportions of foods are the same as on nutritional pyramids invented via Healthy People 2000 from 1989 - 2000 and published in 1992 for humans. This included a overabundance of starches and bread, which likely increased the sales of both in America. MyPlate has likely reduced the sales of white bread and sugar.

MyPlate is an addition to Mrs. Obama's Let's Move campaign for combating US youth obesity, an ever growing health problem.

More Fruit and Vegetables

Not everyone is accustomed to consuming fruits and vegetables several times a week, let alone upping that low rate to 50% of daily food intake. This is a continuing problem as natural disasters destroy some fruit and vegetable crops very year, raising prices at the grocery store.

In addition, some communities have no access to fresh produce, including isolated rural areas and even some urban areas. All of these are known as "food deserts."

Food Schemes 1900 to 2020

Backgrounds available in green, blue, yellow, magenta and black & white.
Backgrounds available in green, blue, yellow, magenta and black & white. | Source

MyPlate and Six Guidelines, 2009 - Present

  1. "Enjoy your food, but eat less." Actually, MyPlate urges us to add additional fruits and vegetables up to a total of 50% of all food intake daily.
  2. "Avoid over-sized portions." This may mean measuring food portions, which can be time consuming, embarrassing, and seen as punishment. However, 4 oz. of meat as a serving may well seem punishment to those who eat 7 oz. steaks.
  3. "Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables." - For those of use that enjoy fruits and vegetables, this is a treat. But not if they continue to become more expensive!
  4. Change milk-drinking from whole or 2% to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk. Not everyone can do this, and 2% is as low as I can go for drinking. I can cook with lower-fat milk and notice no change in flavor, though.
  5. Read labels and compare the sodium content in canned vegetables (buy no-sodium added at the same price), canned and dried soups, breads, frozen meals, prepared foods on the selves, fast food, and others. Choose the lower numbers. For instance, ALDI canned soups are cheap, have a lot of sodium, and don't taste very good. Campbells' is really becoming expensive, though. I pick up the store brands on sale or make my own.
  6. "Drink water instead of sugary drinks." Many doctors often tell us that herbal or caffeine-free teas are just as good as water. Fruit-infused water is another option, but can be expensive. Lemon water can be made at home with lemon juice and water, a less expensive option.

If American families can progress from eating no fruits and vegetables at all to including at last some of these healthier foods, then that change can lead to an improvement in health for their families.

Such a change will help to lower the American obesity rates of children and youth, and certainly will help the unfortunate children kids that are habitually overfed by adults.

Returning to a problem point, who will help American families afford the increasing prices of fruits and vegetables? Some can grow their own, but not everyone is able to do so. Many food banks offer fresh produce donated by local farmers, but how long will this last on any particular day? -- Some people need the produce and have no access to it.

Food Pyramids: 1992 to 2009

Historic Basic Four Food Groups: 1956 - 1992

  1. Red meat, poultry, pork, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs, nuts, legumes
  2. Dairy products: milk, cheese, butter, yogurt
  3. Grains, including cereals and breads
  4. Fruits and vegetables

Basic Seven Food Groups: 1911 through WWII (1945)



  • Healthy Eating Politics. The Power of Healthy Eating: "Let Food Be Your Medicine" Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th ed. December 2015.


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Funny link! I'm glad we don't have that one yet.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 

      8 years ago from Northern California

      Voted up and interesting. Michelle could have made a worse choice. She could have opted for the Zombie Food Pyramid.

    • brentonwight profile image


      9 years ago from Kapunda, South Australia

      The food plate is just as wrong as the food pyramid.

      At age 63 I was 100 kg, obese and sick. At age 64 it's 75 kg, lean, strong and healthy, because I started on the Paleo or Caveman diet. No bread, no milk, no potatoes. Fresh veggies and a little fruit for every meal including breakfast. All grain products cause insulin spikes, milk causes allergies and poor nutrient absorption, especially pateurised and homogenised. Even fruit causes insulin spikes, especially fruit juice as there is no fibre to slow digestion. If I had followed the pyramid or the plate I would still be obese today.

      I'm currently writing a book on my transformation, should be finished early 2012, and now selling vitamins and supplements at my online store and my new health blog is running at where I will answer all health questions. I have reversed my wife's diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure without drugs, and I am now totally free of annual allergies that have plagued me for nearly 50 years!

      The foundation or the pyramin and the plate is grains, and this is a fast-track to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

    • hazelbrown profile image


      9 years ago from Central PA

      I like the new plate better than the pyramid. I think maybe grains should be a smaller portion and protein or fruit should be bigger. Or maybe veggies should be even bigger! I don't think I could eat that many veggies though!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Think of how *steroids* were also added to beef at least by the late 1970s, then *papain* (papaya enzyme) was used after butchering to tenderize the meat. As a steakhouse manager, I had to quit the business - customers were getting fatter and suffering indigestion and diarrhea from the meat along.

    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 

      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for sharing this. I look forward to seeing how 'the plate' will finally be displayed. Just wondering, as the food pyramid had good presentation - although it irritates me that humans were given a food protocol which was originally for fattening cattle, terribly sad. Hope you keep us updated on the progress of 'the plate.' And thanks for sharing the site, I will check it out. v/r

    • wendi_w profile image


      9 years ago from Midwest

      Nice hub we all need to be more aware of our food choices.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      There is no actual specific designation in the official MyPlate plate for fats, desserts, or snacks; although nuts and seeds can be protein. I understand it to be 3 meals a day and nothing else except water perhaps.

    • topquark profile image


      9 years ago from UK

      50% fruit and veg, 50% grains and protein sounds about right. That's what my plate usually looks like. I don't eat meat or dairy so get protein from beans and pulses.

      Having said that, shouldn't there be a small section of the plate devoted to fats, such as nuts, seeds and oils? Or does that come under the other categories, since nuts contain protein, olive oil comes from olives which could be classed as fruit and veg, etc?

    • KyleBear profile image


      9 years ago

      This is indeed much more intuitive than the pyramid ;)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Now if only they would label genetically modified food, warn people that artificial sweeteners are poisonl, and stop allowing people to put deceptive health information on food packaging.

      ...Oh and take flouride out of the water, we may have something going here.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      A step in the right direction and easy to understand but, as you pointed out, fresh fruits and vegetables become ever more expensive. Frozen ones offer a good alternative and sometimes are even less expensive than fresh.

    • marshacanada profile image


      9 years ago from Vancouver BC

      Thanks Patty Inglish for this clear helpful hub. Voted up and useful.

      When Vancouver BC's Asian population expanded lovely little produce stores sprouted on many of our streets. here are four of them within five blocks of my house. These wonderful stores have fresh,cheap,beautiful local vegetables and imports.Everyone flocks there to shop for veggies tofu noodles and soya sauce. Somehow the lovely little produce stores get better and much cheaper veggies than the large supermarkets.

      When I travel to the USA I am always looking in vain for these cheap little stores.

    • HRH Barclay profile image

      HRH Barclay 

      9 years ago from USA

      It had to happen. I grew up with the USDA food pyramid hanging on the lower half of my refrigerator. To this day I could not tell you the composition of the pyramid and I saw it every day growing up. I had heard a little bit about "The Plate" but am glad to read your hub to explain it further. I am adding this hub to my HRH's Favorite Hubs and Hubbers on Twitter. The link is in my profile if you would like to view your and others'. Thanks and take care!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      9 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Since I don't eat meat or dairy, the Plate concept works for me, and the 50% category "everything else" will be more fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, olive oil.

      I checked out the link to "Foods not to eat" and, while it's a step in the right direction, consumers don't know what they're eating if they buy it in a supermarket. The USDA stamp on any type of food is essentially worthless. Thanks to the factory farming conglomerates' lobby money, the USDA protects them, not the health of consumers.


    • fucsia profile image


      9 years ago

      I very like this Hub.

      Even if fruits and vegetables are treated with pesticide and other substances, they are the most natural and healthy food in our table.

    • Trsmd profile image


      9 years ago from India

      Meat, eggs will not work here..?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Grains and vegetables are equal sized portions on the MyPlate and fruits and protein are equal in size. I think grains should be reduced and fruits increased, but it's just an opinion.

    • tebo profile image


      9 years ago from New Zealand

      It will be interesting to see the new food plan. Obviously we do need to eat more fruit and veg. We probably need to grow our own if we want to be sure they are spray free etc. It is possible to grow quite a lot in a small area even in pots, but we must remember to water them, which tends to be my downfall.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image


      9 years ago

      The important thing to remember with the new MyPlate roll-out is that vegetables should be the biggest portion of every meal. And I agree with that.

      Unfortunatley, most plates in the restaurants doesn't look like that. It would be great if restaurants offer more meals that looks like the USDA new MyPlate.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      WOW! - What a bevy of beautiful, thoughtful comments!

      I like having more vegetables and fruits recommended, but don't like that the prices of these are rising so that some cannot afford them. And we still have the issue of junk food bought with SNAP funds, so - it's still all better than the food pyramid, which I found un-useful -- except for fattening up cattle and humans. LOL

      And 4H is a wonderful group for youth to have!

      Friends in Thailand say they have different fruits in season every month - now, I would love that!

      Growing one's own tomatoes is a marvel! - They taste like no other tomatoes.

      Thanks for all these GREAT thoughts, friends!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Patty, thanks for all this great information and showing the new food group pie chart or plate which ever it may be . I remember learning about the food groups in school, when food was more healthier. I grow tomatoes each summer because store bought tomatoes have very little taste .

      Useful and vote up !!!

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      9 years ago

      Good Morning Ms. Marvel!

      Do I understand correctly that you do not entirely agree with the new "pie chart!?" (Interesting metaphor ~ "plate" does sound better!) Is this Hub part of the "Critic" series?? Or will we know more once the new guidelines are revealed?

      Yes, interesting no dairy! The dairy lobby must be mounting its response right now!

      No small amount of healthy fats either!? Olive oil? Omega-3's?

      Some of your comments were a real eye-opener for me! In California we are blessed with so many fresh fruits and vegetables that I think most our meals consist of more than 50%! Actually, many meals are 100% veggie's, rice and beans ~ vegetarian or vegan!

      Of course I'm one of those weird California "fruits and nuts" who actually enjoy health food, organic fruits and vegetables, vitamins, exercise (kind of), water, yoga and pilates!

      I applaud Michelle Obama for bringing healthier lifestyle choices to the forefront!

      You are such a brilliant writer Patty (not to mention the martial arts) I imagine you take pretty good care of yourself or your brain wouldn't be in such top shape!

      I look forward to another of your Hubs on the actual "new plate guidelines" and how it breaks down!

      You are the BEST!

      Blessings always to you Ms. Marvelous, Earth Angel!

      P.S. My spell-checker didn't even have "vegan" or "pilates!?" I guess I am the odd duck!

    • susannah42 profile image


      9 years ago from Florida

      We need to be very careful what we consume. Fresh, organic, and free of additives.

    • sholland10 profile image

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      I remember the 4 Food Groups were dinner gospel in our house. They are also a hard habit to break - I mean all my 4H training in the kitchen are down the tube. I find eating more fruits and vegetable hard, but I know I need to and add water. Great information! Voted up and useful!

    • Hendrika profile image


      9 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      I'm one of those that love fruit and vegetables but cannot afford to eat it as much as I would love to. What worries me is that there are still diets out there making the people eat very little fruit and vegetables. My daughter in law is on one such a diet and I am just biding my time to persuade her to go for a healthier option.

    • Nicole Winter profile image

      Nicole A. Winter 

      9 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Very interesting hub, with even more interesting comments! Thank-you for publishing this, Patty Inglish, MS, I had heard that the First Lady was planning on unveiling a new nutrition guide, but had not seen any news on it yet. This is oddly timely for me, too, because, (and I'm really honestly trying not to be mean,) I have seen tons of really fat kids this week. Now, as a child I had a pretty slim / toned body until about 6-8 months before puberty, which is probably around the time that a lot of my food issues really started sinking in, so again, I'm *not* trying to be mean, but these kids in my neighborhood I saw over the weekend are half my daughter's age and almost twice her weight. They are MORBIDLY obese! How does a parent let that happen? I find it disturbing that the government has to step in here and attempt, once again, to tell us what to put in our bodies in order to be healthy. tHErEDpILL also makes a cogent point about insecticides, steroids and the general toxicity of food. You get to the point where you don't even want to give your child dairy products anymore, (they are the worst offenders, imho,) with all the antibiotics and steroids that are pumped into them! Big commercial farming has dehumanized the industry, forcing farmers to adhere to barbarism, otherwise they lose their status with big time markets. If you can make it through the film, (most people can't,) "Food, Inc," is a MUST-SEE. On a side-note, I just heard this weekend from an unknown, (unremembered,) source that our bodies have a more difficult time processing cloned food. I have no idea if this is actually true, but I think it is definitely food for thought. (Terrible pun, unintended.) Thanks for publishing this! (Sorry for the comment of epic length proportions!)

    • Fossillady profile image


      9 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Can't wait to see it, I'm so glad they are revising it!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      Very good guideline and more acceptable than all these diets.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      9 years ago from South Carolina

      tHErEDplLL made some excellent points.

      I remember the old food pyramids and many other things that we were taught were healthy for us, only to be told years later that what we learned back then was wrong. It becomes frustrating and confusing.

      I think my great grandfather who was still taking mile long walks in his 90's had the best advice to a long healthy life. "Do all things in moderation."

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Yes, a lot going on, certainly. I knew a woman in the late 1980s that invented a method of cloning corn plants. She took it to Idaho and I do not know how much of US corn is cloned today.

    • tHErEDpILL profile image

      Alem Belton 

      9 years ago from New York

      very informative hub. Too bad our food is so full of steroids and toxins for any of this to matter. Even the fruits and veggies are sprayed with poisons and dyes to make them look more "presentable" in supermarkets. Most of our chicken is cloned and who knows how that swept under the rug BP spill is affecting our food also. Sigh, today's problems are tomorrows passing fads. "The BP spill is sooo yesterday."


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