Is a Plate Better than a Pyramid?

This Thursday, the USDA will announce the first major change in the healthy eating icon, the Pyramid, MyPyramid Iconsince it was introduced in 1992. The familiar (or unfamiliar to some) rainbow striped Pyramid will be replaced with a plate icon to help get Americans back on track to healthier eating. The healthy eating icons are supposed to be the visual representation of the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which we covered earlier this year when they were released.

I’ve been in nutrition long enough to remember the old “Basic Four” icon that was around before the Pyramid(s).

According to the first report on what we can expect on Thursday from the NY Times, the new icon will have four sections: Fruits, veggies, lean protein and grains.  There will also be a section adjacent to the plate for low-fat or nonfat dairy (or dairy alternative) choices. (Sounds very “Basic Four-ish”)

AICR New Healthy EAting PlateAs a dietitian, I never really “got” the pyramid and always focused on teaching healthy eating through plate references. As a general rule, RDs say to make 3/4 of your plate from plant-based foods and save 1/4 for lean animal-based protein.

One plate that has quite a following in the American Institute of Cancer Research created the “New American Plate” several years ago, and it was based on the research to best reduce cancer risk. It’s main focus is eating a plant-centric diet, as we expect the new USDA icon will also recommend.

If the plate is going to make a dent in the nation’s waistline, I can only hope USDA provides some guidance about the SIZE of the plate. The dinner plates that are sold today could double as pizza pans. I’ve used salad or dessert plates for our main courses for ages and we usually only use our dinner plates as serving platters.

We’ll be revealing the new icon this Thursday and our POV on it.  What are your thoughts? Is a plate better than a Pyramid?







  1. Serena Rebechini says

    This is a great idea and LONG over due! I have used dinner plates that have a wide raised lip forever. The inner circle is about the size of a salad plate. You feel like you are getting more but can’t really use the outter 2-3″ of the plate.

  2. Jes W says

    This is so much better! I work in mental health and one of my biggest challenges is getting clients to eat better. The pyramid had no generalizability, it didn’t connect to something people could see everytime they ate. This will make it much more accessible and (hopefully) more widely used.

  3. Bill P says

    All for the new approach and like your comments on portion size. Would like them to comment on sodium intake also which appears to be out of hand.

  4. says

    In nutrition 1 our teacher drew a circle on the board and divided it in up, one half for fruits and/or vegetables and 2 quarters one each for protein and starch to explain what a meal should look like. It’s seems elementary, but it is a great visual. I’m looking forward to Thursday.

  5. Carl Lowe says

    Have any of these plates or pyramids made the slightest difference in the nation’s weight problem, diabetes problem, nutrition problem?

    But I guess you gotta keep trying.

  6. Beth Mickens says

    I’m looking forward to seeing what they come out with. I agree that they really need to emphasize on plate size. I have always used small plates for myself and my daughter to help with proper proportioning. I think its important that we teach our kids early how to properly eat. This visual is going to make relaying the message of proper, healthy eating to kids and students easier.

  7. Marta says

    I agree with Carl! We are still the fattest nation in the whole world with health problems like heart, high blood and cholesterol, breast cancer and the like..Until we change our habits of driving everywhere..and exercising along with eating right,,this will continue..Too many Americans drive everywhere and dont want to take the time or the effort to walk, run, or ride a bicycle..I try to do my part by..exercising everyday, trying to eat right..and taking the bus when I can..I guess it has helped..because..I see alot of fat women that are younger than me..and everyone says..I am slim..I am 5ft 5 and weigh BMi is 23..I try to do right and I have maintained my weight for 32 yrs!!

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