New plates on the table

September 29, 2011
Sherri Meyer, MG Registered Dietitian,

This year, the U.S. government scrapped its MyPyramid icon in favor of the fruit-and-vegetable rich MyPlate-an improvement, yet one that still doesn't go far enough to show people how to make the healthiest choices.

There are better alternatives: the new Healthy Eating Plate and the Healthy Eating Pyramid, both built by faculty members in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, in conjunction with colleagues at Harvard Health Publications. The Healthy Eating Plate fixes the flaws in USDA's MyPlate, just as the Healthy Eating Pyramid rectifies the mistakes of the USDA's food pyramids. Both the Healthy Eating Plate and the Healthy Eating Pyramid are based on the latest science about how our food, drink, and activity choices affect our health—and are unaffected by businesses and organizations with a stake in their messages.
Click here to see Harvard's "Healthy Eating Plate"

Here’s a look at the HSPH’s Healthy Eating Plate and how it differs from USDA’s MyPlate

* Vegetables:  The HEP puts more emphasis on veggies and makes it clear that potatoes and French fries don’t count. Eat an abundant variety, the more the better. Limited consumption of potatoes is recommended, however, as they are full of rapidly digested starch, which has the same roller-coaster effect on blood sugar as refined grains and sweets. In the short-term, these surges in blood sugar and insulin lead to hunger and overeating, and in the long term, to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic disorders.

* Fruits: Choose a rainbow of fruits every day.

* Whole Grains: MyPlate is simply “grains” while HEP focuses on whole grains.
Choose whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice. Refined grains, such as white bread and white rice, act like sugar in the body. Eating too many refined grains can raise the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

* Healthy Proteins: MyPlate gives no indication of the best types of protein options.
Choose fish, poultry, beans, or nuts, which contain healthful nutrients. Limit red meat and avoid processed meats, since eating even small quantities of these on a regular basis raises the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and weight gain.

* Healthy Oils: Use olive, canola, and other plant oils in cooking, on salads, and at the table, since these healthy fats reduce harmful cholesterol and are good for the heart. Limit butter and avoid trans fat.

* Water: MyPlate recommends milk but shows no other beverages; HEP gives more details about calorie-free beverages and limits dairy.
Drink water, tea, or coffee (with little or no sugar). Limit milk and dairy (1-2 servings per day) and juice (1 small glass a day) and avoid sugary drinks.

*Stay Active: HEP promotes physical fitness; MyPlate does not address exercise.

Leave a Reply