By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, June 2 – As part of an ongoing effort to fight obesity in the U.S., First Lady Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin unveiled the federal government's new food icon, MyPlate. The new icon and web site are designed to help consumers make healthier food choices, based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Half of the plate is devoted to fruits and vegetables, while grains and protein fill the other half. A circle to the side represents dairy.

"This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we're eating and as a mom, I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work, we're already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew. So it's tough to be a nutritionist, too. But we do have time to take a look at our kids' plates. As long as they're half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we're golden. That's how easy it is."

"With so many food options available to consumers, it is often difficult to determine the best foods to put on our plates when building a healthy meal," said Secretary Vilsack. "MyPlate is an uncomplicated symbol to help remind people to think about their food choices in order to lead healthier lifestyles. This effort is about more than just giving information; it is a matter of helping people understand there are options and practical ways to apply them to their daily lives."

MyPlate will replace the MyPyramid image as the government's primary food group symbol as an easy-to-understand visual cue to help consumers adopt healthy eating habits consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. MyPyramid will remain available to interested health professionals and nutrition educators in a special section of the new website

Over the next several years, USDA will work with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let'sMove! initiative and public and private partners to promote MyPlate and as well as the supporting nutrition messages and "how-to" resources.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, launched in January of this year, form the basis of the federal government's nutrition education programs, federal nutrition assistance programs, and dietary advice provided by health and nutrition professionals. The Guidelines messages include:

Balance Calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains

Foods to Reduce

  • Compare sodium (salt) in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and choose foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Coupled with these tested, actionable messages will be the "how-tos" for consumer behavior change. A multi-year campaign calendar will focus on one action-prompting message at a time starting with "Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables."

As part of this new initiative, USDA wants to see how consumers are putting MyPlate in to action by encouraging consumers to take a photo of their plates and share on Twitter with the hash-tag #MyPlate.

Reaction to the new icon and nutrition campaign was overwhelmingly positive from producer and food industry groups. Here’s a sampling:

Bill Donald, President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association:

 “In around 150 calories, one 3-ounce serving of lean beef gives consumers ‘more bang for their calorie buck.’ Consumers need to know that lean beef supplies nearly half of their Daily Value for protein, as well as nine other essential nutrients, including zinc, iron and Vitamin B12. The MyPlate icon makes it easy for consumers to enjoy lean beef, while meeting the recommendation to fill half of their plate with fruits and vegetables.

Jean Ragalie, President of the National Dairy Council:

"Knowing what we do about dairy's ability to reduce the risk of conditions like osteoporosis, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, we think it's exciting that dairy is highlighted individually. The location of dairy on the graphic really helps it stand out as an essential part of a healthy eating plan.

Connie Tipton, President and CEO, International Dairy Foods Association

"We're delighted that this new education tool provides a clear, visual message that milk and other dairy products are important for a nutritious diet. The dairy industry commends the USDA for highlighting how beneficial a serving of dairy at every meal can be, and for educating people about dairy's role on the table and in the American diet."

Nancy Chapman, Executive Director, Soyfoods Association of North America (SANA)

"Now more than ever the 2010 Dietary Guidelines are relevant for all Americans, regardless of age, cultural preferences, or dietary needs. By creating the new food icon, USDA helps all adults and children understand what a healthy plate should look like when they sit down at the dinner table. SANA applauds the Administration for taking another huge step with this practical guidance."

Nancy Rice, SNS, President, School Nutrition Association

"The School Nutrition Association (SNA) welcomes USDA's new food icon and encourages all Americans to use it as a guide for planning their meals daily, weekly and throughout the year. School nutrition professionals are thrilled to have this new resource to help students understand the importance of healthy eating and well-balanced meals. The new food icon clearly shows young people just how important eating fruits and vegetables with their school meals are to their diet, health and development. We hope that parents, teachers and all role models for children will join us in promoting the new food icon to help children gravitate to a lifetime of healthier eating habits."

James H. Hodges, President, American Meat Institute Foundation

"We are pleased that the new food icon unveiled today, just as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, affirms in a clear and simple fashion that protein is a critical component of a balanced, healthy diet. Lean meat and poultry products are some the most nutrient rich foods available, are excellent sources of complete protein, iron and zinc and maintain an excellent nutrition per calorie ratio. AMI will continue to voice support for the premise that a well-balanced diet, proper portion sizes and exercise are keys to overall good health and wellness."

Margo G. Wootan, Nutrition Policy Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest

"While no one graphic can communicate every nuance of healthy eating, this easy-to-understand illustration will help people remember what their own plate should look like. It likely will surprise most people into recognizing that they need to eat a heck of a lot more vegetables and fruits. Most people are eating about a quarter of a plate of fruits or vegetables, not a half a plate as recommended."


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