Sunday, July 3, 2011

MyPlate: A Look at the New USDA Food symbol

 My plate does not look too appetizing.

The government’s replacement for the food pyramid is My Plate . It looks generic and simple, which is good for small reproductions, but in most instances I find that this overly simplified system doesn't work. This image will appear on posters in lunchrooms and classrooms across the U.S. In the last two rounds of remaking the “food pyramid" the USDA has removed food imagery from the food pyramid. This can make it difficult to understand what the USDA recommendations are for consumption. The plate is divided by the proportions of what your plate should look like, but without food imagery, one can only assume what we should be eating. Particularly if you are a young child or part of the 7 million illiterate in the U.S. who cannot yet read words like protein or vegetables.

One the positive: the concept and vibrant colors are fitting. It's a plate and a cup, this makes logical sense considering the subject matter. (Better than a pyramid, anyway). This plate shows portion control and basic food categories, but without images I think it becomes harder for a child to initially understand. European nutrition plates, look similar to ours, but the food groups are split into portions that contain images of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein. These images also show variety of foods within each category. On MyPlate the grains could show images of whole grain food and lean portions of meat or beans to show healthy foods we should be eating. 

With the millions of dollars that the government invested into MyPlate, a larger portion of that could have been spent creating a kinetic system. Currently we have this generic MyPlate, with shapes to represent percentages of food types that should be on our plates. The kinetic system could be a generic plate that has slices/portions that can be switched out for diet alternatives, such as diets for vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians, and various food allergies. These slices could be interchangeable like a puzzle, and need to fit together to make a healthy diet. (Hey that could be a video game like tetras: pieces need to fit together in order to make a balance diet. Kids could learn about nutrition and have fun.)

I do think that this MyPlate option is better than the last food pyramid we had. I am just failing to see the reason behind removing food from our nutritional infographics.


  1. The food icon has been a complicated bit of policy for decades. So many voices compete for influence; meat producers, organic farmers, animal rights activists etc. it is amazing the icon doesn't list coke as a good group. Plus all the other design stuff you mentioned. It's proof of spending cuts, the govt couldn't pay a decent designer.

  2. They spent 2 million dollars and 2 years working on this new version of the food pyramid. I am happy with the pyramid becoming a plate, but it still feels preliminary in its design. I do not know much about the politics of it all, but I would think that it would be best to shut out lobbyists and listen strictly to nutritionists.


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