Hey, remember when the USDA kicked the much-maligned Food Pyramid to the curb and busted out the snappy new MyPlate nutrition diagram back in June? While certainly an important step forward in correcting the over-complication problems that the pyramid presented, critics pointed out that MyPlate could actually be too simple (and a confusing emphasis on dairy that could be interpreted as necessary with every meal). But rather than sit back and nitpick, scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Health Publications saw it a challenge and got to work course-correcting the flawed diagram. This week Harvard Heart Letter editor P.J. Skerrett and his colleagues released their own Healthy Eating Plate, intended as an improvement on the USDA’s design.
“Why bother modifying MyPlate?” writes Skerrett. “Because it offers little – or inaccurate – advice. It says nothing about the quality of carbohydrates (grains). White bread and white rice raises blood sugar in a flash – whole grains are better for long-term health. It makes no distinction between healthy sources of protein such as beans, fish, and poultry, and less healthy sources, such as red and processed meat.”
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Harvard Health Publications’ Healthy Eating Plate model makes these distinctions, keeping the USDA’s suggested portions intact while providing descriptions of the best way to put them into action. The model also eschews the USDA's mandatory dairy servings, replacing it with the suggestion of limiting dairy and sugary drinks in favor of water, coffee, or tea. In addition, the Healthy Eating Plate makes references to healthy oils and exercise that MyPlate sorely lacks.
Whether or not your allegiance lies with the USDA or Harvard’s plucky young upstart, we think it’s great that such a dialog has been sparked. Through efforts like these, we can continue to progress toward something even better.