Washington, D.C. – First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today unveiled the federal government’s new food icon, MyPlate, to serve as a reminder to help consumers make healthier food choices. MyPlate is a new generation icon with the intent to prompt consumers to think about building a healthy plate at meal times and to seek more information to help them do that by going to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.
The new MyPlate icon emphasizes the fruit, vegetable, grains, protein and dairy food groups.
“This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating and as a mom, I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work, we’re already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew. So it’s tough to be a nutritionist, too. But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. As long as they’re half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden. That’s how easy it is.”
“With so many food options available to consumers, it is often difficult to determine the best foods to put on our plates when building a healthy meal,” said Secretary Vilsack. “MyPlate is an uncomplicated symbol to help remind people to think about their food choices in order to lead healthier lifestyles. This effort is about more than just giving information, it is a matter of making people understand there are options and practical ways to apply them to their daily lives.”
Originally identified in the Child Obesity Task Force report which noted that simple, actionable advice for consumers is needed, MyPlate will replace the MyPyramid image as the government’s primary food group symbol as an easy-to-understand visual cue to help consumers adopt healthy eating habits consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. MyPyramid will remain available to interested health professionals and nutrition educators in a special section of the new website.
ChooseMyPlate.gov provides practical information to individuals, health professionals, nutrition educators, and the food industry to help consumers build healthier diets with resources and tools for dietary assessment, nutrition education, and other user-friendly nutrition information. As Americans are experiencing epidemic rates of overweight and obesity, the online resources and tools can empower people to make healthier food choices for themselves, their families, and their children. Later this year, USDA will unveil an exciting “go-to” online tool that consumers can use to personalize and manage their dietary and physical activity choices.
Over the next several years, USDA will work with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’sMove! initiative and public and private partners to promote MyPlate and ChooseMyPlate.gov as well as the supporting nutrition messages and “how-to” resources.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, launched in January of this year, form the basis of the federal government’s nutrition education programs, federal nutrition assistance programs, and dietary advice provided by health and nutrition professionals.
The Guidelines messages include:
- Enjoy your food, but eat less.
- Avoid oversized portions.
Foods to Increase
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
- Make at least half your grains whole grains
Foods to Reduce
- Compare sodium (salt) in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and choose foods with lower numbers.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Coupled with these tested, actionable messages will be the “how-tos” for consumer behavior change. A multi-year campaign calendar will focus on one action-prompting message at a time starting with “Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables.”
“What we have learned over the years is that consumers are bombarded by so many nutrition messages that it makes it difficult to focus on changes that are necessary to improve their diet,” said Secretary Vilsack. “This new campaign calendar will help unify the public and private sectors to coordinate efforts and highlight one desired change for consumers at a time.”
As part of this new initiative, USDA wants to see how consumers are putting MyPlate in to action by encouraging consumers to take a photo of their plates and share on Twitter with the hash-tag #MyPlate. USDA also wants to see where and when consumers think about healthy eating. Take the Plate [link to downloadable plate image] and snap a photograph with MyPlate to share with our USDA Flickr Photo Group [www.flickr.com/people/usdagov/].
A Brief History of USDA Food Guides
1916 to 1930s: “Food for Young Children” and “How to Select Food”
- Established guidance based on food groups and household measures
- Focus was on “protective foods”
1940s: A Guide to Good Eating (Basic Seven)
- Foundation diet for nutrient adequacy
- Included daily number of servings needed from each of seven
- Lacked specific serving sizes
- Considered complex
1956 to 1970s: Food for Fitness, A Daily Food Guide (Basic Four)
- Foundation diet approach—goals for nutrient adequacy
- Specified amounts from four food groups
- Did not include guidance on appropriate fats, sugars, and calorie intake
1979: Hassle-Free Daily Food Guide
- Developed after the 1977 Dietary Goals for the United States were released
- Based on the Basic Four, but also included a fifth group to highlight the need to moderate intake of fats, sweets, and alcohol
1984: Food Wheel: A Pattern for Daily Food Choices
- Total diet approachCIncluded goals for both nutrient adequacy and moderation
- Five food groups and amounts formed the basis for the Food Guide Pyramid
- Daily amounts of food provided at three calorie levels
- First illustrated for a Red Cross nutrition course as a food wheel
1992: Food Guide Pyramid
- Total diet approach—goals for both nutrient adequacy and moderation
- Developed using consumer research, to bring awareness to the new food patterns
- Illustration focused on concepts of variety, moderation, and proportion
- Included visualization of added fats and sugars throughout five food groups and in the tip
- Included range for daily amounts of food across three calorie levels
2005: MyPyramid Food Guidance System
- Introduced along with updating of Food Guide Pyramid food patterns for the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including daily amounts of food at 12 calorie levels
- Continued “pyramid” concept, based on consumer research, but simplified illustration. Detailed information provided on website “MyPyramid.gov”
- Added a band for oils and the concept of physical activity
- Illustration could be used to describe concepts of variety, moderation, and proportion
- Introduced along with updating of USDA food patterns for the 2010
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- Different shape to help grab consumers’ attention with a new visual cue
- Icon that serves as a reminder for healthy eating, not intended to provide specific messages
- Visual is linked to food and is a familiar mealtime symbol in consumers’ minds, as identified through testing
- “My” continues the personalization approach from MyPyramid
For more information:
- Welsh S, Davis C, Shaw A. A brief history of food guides in the United States. Nutrition Today November/December 1992:6-11.
- Welsh S, Davis C, Shaw A. Development of the Food Guide Pyramid. Nutrition Today November/December 1992:12-23.
- Haven J, Burns A, Britten P, Davis C. Developing the Consumer Interface for the MyPyramid Food Guidance System. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 2006, 38: S124–S135.
TopicsCalories, child obesity, Grains, Obesity, Protein, Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, vegetables