USDA Food Pyramid: 1992-2010
Since 1992 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has provided the nutritional food pyramid, which has been the standard by which many have ascribed as far as recommended food intake. The USDA food guide pyramid that was introduction in 1992 was revamped in 2005, and became to be known as MyPyramid. Since then, there has been a change in the national view of established guidelines for nutrition. New dietary guidelines have been introduced together with a graphical representation.
The new food guide, USDA’s MyPlate, was introduced in 2010, as the new guidelines for proper dietary nutrition. These guidelines, developed by the USDA in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services are designed to serve as the “cornerstone of Federal nutrition policy and nutrition education activities” (USDA Dietary Guidelines, 2011).
Evidence based, authoritative advice for Americans ages two and up regarding calorie consumption, physical activity to obtain optimal health, informed decisions about choices of food and their nutritional value, as well as ways to reduce chronic conditions and promote overall health are provided as a part of the MyPlate guidelines.
The words “Choose MyPlate” were introduced to promote the “2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans”. The guidelines were officially released June 2, 2011.
Why the change to MyPlate?
According to the key developers of the MyPlate dietary guidelines, changes were made in the federal nutrition program because more than two-thirds of American adults and more than one-third of America’s children are determined overweight or obese. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 also recognizes and acknowledges that approximately 15% of American households have been unable to secure adequate food to meet their needs (Nord, Coleman-Jensen, Andrews, & Carlson, 2010). Moreover, the plate model was chosen as it is easier for individuals to understand; as the pyramid model proved to be somewhat difficult for many average Americans to comprehend.
Choose MyPlate – Make smarter Food Choices
The goal of Choose MyPlate is not to provide a specified dietary program to address any particular physical or health related condition. Rather, the goal of ChooseMyPlate is to help Americans make smarter food choices from every food group represented, strike a balance between food and physical activity that helps to use the food for energy, stay within suggested daily calorie needs, and to get more nutrition from the calories that are consumed.
Choose MyPlate describes a healthy diet as one with a focus on vegetables, fruits, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, as well as whole grains. MyPlate food guidelines suggest more lean meat consumption, nuts, eggs, beans, fish, and poultry; and a diet that is low in trans fats, saturated fats, cholesterol, added sugars and salt.
The Colors in MyPlate
MyPlate is made of four sections with the colors orange, green, blue and red, plus a side order in blue. Each color represent a specific food group and provides certain nutritional benefits. This plate model illustrates the importance of a varied diet with foods from each food group. The purpose with this design is to help people make healthier and smarter food choices. Let’s see what each color in MyPlate represents:
- Orange represents the grain group – “Make at least half your grains whole.”
- Green represents the vegetable group – “Vary your vegetables.”
- Red represents the fruit group – “Focus on fruits.”
- Purple represents the protein foods group – “Go lean with protein.”
- Blue represents the dairy group – “Get your calcium rich foods.”
10 Tips for a Great Plate
In addition to the general information provided by MyPlate, there are 10 tips to a great plate that are easy guidelines for everyone to be able to follow. They are:
- Balance Calories: Determine how many calories you need per day as a first step in diet management. Physical activity also helps to balance caloric intake.
- Enjoy your Food, But Eat less: There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your food as you eat it. When your attention is somewhere else or when you eat too fast, there is a greater possibility of consuming too many calories and overeating. Pay attention to fullness and hunger cues before, during and after you have eaten. Use these cues to recognize when to eat and when you have had enough.
- Avoid Oversized Portions: Use a smaller glass, bowl and plate. Determine portion size before you eat and when eating out, choose a smaller size option such as the lunch portion for dinner. Share your dish with those you eat with and take home a portion of your meal.
- Foods to Eat Often: Increase the number and amount fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low and fat free dairy and milk products. These foods tend to be nutritionally packed and include specific healthful nutrients including fiber, vitamin D, calcium, and potassium. Make these food stuffs the basis not just of meals but of snacks as well.
- Make Half your Plate Vegetables and Fruit: Choose colorful vegetables such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, tomatoes, and broccoli in addition to other vegetables. Make fruit a part of side dishes as well as dessert.
- Switch to fat free or low fat milk: The same amount of calcium is available in these options as you would find in whole milk, but there are fewer saturated fats and fewer calories.
- Make Half Your Grains Whole Grains: Substitute refined grain products for whole grain products; for example, substitute wheat for white bread, and brown for white rice.
- Reduce foods that are high in added sugars, salts and solid fats. These foods include ice cream, candies, sweetened drinks, pizza, cakes and pies and fatty meats such as hot dogs, bacon sausage, and ribs. It’s okay to have them every now and then, on occasion, but not as a part of everyday meals.
- Compare Sodium in Foods: Review the nutrition facts label available on every food product with the exception of fresh vegetables and fruits. Select canned items that are “no salt added”, “low sodium”, and “reduced sodium”.
- Drink Water instead of Sugary Drinks: Reduce calories by changing what you drink. Calories can be significantly reduced with unsweetened beverages or water. Soda, sports and energy drinks are a significant source of calories and added sugar in many Americans diets.
Choose MyPlate, “10 Tips to a Great Plate”.
Nord, M, Coleman-Jensen, A, Andrew, M., & Carlson, S. (2009). Washington D.C.
US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 2010. Nov.
Economic Research Report No. ERR-108. Available from
Nutrition Plate Unveiled, Replacing food Pyramid. The New York Times. 2 June 2011