Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dietary Guidelines: Food Plates (Not Pie Charts or Pizza Rounds) Around the Globe

Breaking news: the new graphic icon representing the 2010 US dietary guidelines and replacing the food pyramid, which will officially be announced by the White House next Thursday is in fact a round graphic, a dinner plate or a wheel (not to be confused with a pie chart, cake or pizza pie)!

You heard it first on Lighthearted Locavore yesterday in "It's Official: Food Pyramid To Be Replaced" when I said "I have my fingers crossed that the soon to be released graphic is a round plate half filled with colorful fruits and vegetables. What's your guess?"
Healthy "Pizza" Chart
The New York Times broke the news in today's paper with its exclusive story. While still shroud in mystery, according to anonymous inside sources from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the dietary guidelines symbol, the "food plate", is reminiscent of a colorful painting by Mark Rothko, the Russian born abstract expressionist who paints in bright, yet earthy colors (always in rectangles and never ever in a circular shape). William Neuman reports: "Goodbye Food Pyramid, Hello Dinner Plate".

I'm still unclear how the current food pyramid lasted for nearly 20 years as there was a constant stream of criticism about how confusing the pyramid is,  never mind that it was a politically charged document crafted by food industry lobbyists in part, and hierarchical, with good foods on the bottom and less good foods on the top, to the point of being wildly misleading. Marion Nestle, nutritionist and former FDA insider, has done a great job over the years writing about dietary guidelines, including on her blog, Food Politics.

In my mind, there is no doubt that a plate is simple and clear. After all, we fill and empty our plates several times a day. 

Australia's Guide to Healthy Eating is a plate representation with almost half fruits and vegetables.
Australia's Dietary Guidelines "Plate"
A few European countries adopted the plate symbol, including the United Kingdom's "Eatwell Plate":
UK's Eatwell Plate
Denmark has a compass shape, Finland, Netherlands, Turkey, Portugal, Spain and Sweden also use circles or plates. 
The Spanish Wheel

Turkey's Dietary Guidelines Graphic
Sweden has taken the study of the plates one step further, to address the carbon emissions of their food supply, proposals to the EU contain an environmental impact number giving equal weight to health and climate. Many packaged foods, from oatmeal to beef, contain a carbon dioxide emissions calculation. "To Cut Global Warming, Swedes Study Their Plates", Elisabeth Rosenthal,  New York Times, 10/22/09.

The Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, a global think tank, addresses climate and environmental issues along with food with its "double pyramid".

BCFN's Double Pyramid
Dr. Andrew Weil, natural health and wellness doctor and one of my favorite integrative nutrition gurus, has his "anti-inflammatory" pyramid which emphasizes a plant based diet rich in fruits and vegetables (I love that chocolate rests on the top!) as does Harvard with their "healthy eating pyramid".
       
Anti-Inflammatory Pyramid

Harvard's Healthy Food Pyramid



No matter whether the graphic is a pyramid, a triangle, a square, rectangle or a circle, the 2010 dietary guidelines are relatively simple: 
•  Enjoy your food, but eat less
•  Avoid over-sized portions
•  Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
•  Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
•  Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and choose the   foods with lower numbers
•  Drink water instead of sugary drinks

Now, that we know it's a plate shape, will it be a big plate, a medium sized plate or a small plate? 

Courtesy of WebMD
  What's on your plate?

4 comments:

Savannah Montgomery said...

What a great post! I am so glad they are getting rid of the pyramid. A better guide will make it a good tool for teaching kids about healthy eating. I enjoyed seeing the guides from other countries as well.Those are pretty awesome. Thanks for sharing such a great post.

Is it OK to link to this post on my blog?

Savannah
http://cheaphomeschool.blogspot.com/

Lexi Van de Walle said...

Savannah, I'd be delighted to have a link from your blog! Thanks so much for you nice note and stopping by. Agreed -- the plate is so much better. It was fun to research other food plates around the world.

Kathy at Wellness Roadtrip said...

Wow, really great comparison of the charts. I like Dr. Weil's...gotta love the chocolate at the top. But it is funny how that pyramid was so difficult for us to move away from. Glad we finally did and that the new plate is at least easier for kids to understand.

Kathy at Wellness Roadtrip said...

Great comparison of different countries. Very interesting to see that so many used this simplier graphic. I'm so glad we finally moved away from the pyramid. The plate is much easier for kids to understand. Although I like Dr. Weil's with the dark chocoate at the top!