MyPlate inadequately guides dietary choices

Remember the Food Pyramid? The base of grains, the following four sections of vegetables, fruits, proteins and dairy, and the peak of oils, fats and desserts. The pyramid, which once lined cafeteria walls, went through years of alterations before the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) abandoned the familiar dietary triangle in June 2011 because it but it fails to differentiate between specific healthy and unhealthy choices. The USDA replaced it with MyPlate, an image of a plate of food with blocks of color indicating the different food groups. While it is an step up from the Food Pyramid, MyPlate fails to incorporate enough of the nutritional information the public needs most.

While it resembles the Food Pyramid, MyPlate attempts to incorporate up-to-date nutrition informational and illustrates portion sizes more accurately, according to Forbes Magazine in June 2011.

The USDA was confident that MyPlate would simplify dietary guidelines and make Americans more aware of healthy choices. MyPlate recommends a meal that is 30 percent vegetables, 30 percent grains, 20 percent fruit and 20 percent protein, along with a cup of low-fat dairy. Visit MyPlate.gov to see the food options MyPlate offers.

Nevertheless, MyPlate does not accurately represent what Americans ought to eat. For example, under the grains category, MyPlate offers the choice between whole grains and refined grains. However, it fails to inform people that whole grains are considerably healthier than refined grains, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. The other categories follow the same example; MyPlate offers many meal options, but it fails to differentiate between specific healthy and unhealthy choices.

MyPlate also discourages whole-fat dairy by labeling it “empty calories,” and recommends low-fat dairy as a healthier choice. On the contrary, low-fat dairy can be linked to weight gain, while whole-fat is not, according to a study by the Children’s Hospital in Boston.

Many Americans do not follow the dietary guidelines set by the USDA. Furthermore, obesity rates have risen since the introduction of MyPlate. In 2009, 35.7 percent of American adults were overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2012, overweight and obesity rates rose to 68.8 percent, according to the Food Research and Action Center.

I do not believe that the rise in obesity rates is directly connected to the birth of MyPlate. The situation illustrates two actions that should be taken. First, the USDA needs to revise MyPlate to accurately show Americans what they should and should not eat. The guidelines about grains and dairy should align with cur-rent scientific evidence. Moreover, food options should be rated based on the level of healthiness. That way, people will know that beans and nuts, for example, offer more health benefits than red meat.

Secondly, the government should do more to promote these dietary guidelines. My high school made no mention of the Food Pyramid or its descendants. I did not know that MyPlate existed before I came to college last year. Even current news stories about health and food say little or nothing about existing dietary guidelines. I believe an ongoing dialogue about nutrition would result in a more informed public, better pre- pared to make healthy choices.

Molly Daniels Columnist

Contact Molly Daniels at mdaniels16@my.whitworth.edu

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