Published on: June 3, 2011The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) yesterday launched its new “MyPlate” icon, designed to replace the familiar Food Pyramid as an easy-to-reference guide to an optimal diet. The plate is split into four components - for fruit, vegetables, grains and protein. A small circle sits outside the plate for dairy.
According to the New York Times story, “Officials said they planned to use the plate in a campaign to communicate essential dietary guidelines to consumers, emphasizing one message at a time for best effect. The Agriculture Department has created a Web site, ChooseMyPlate.com, that elaborates on the guidance reflected in the plate design.
“The first part of the campaign will encourage people to make half their plate fruit and vegetables. Later phases of the campaign will urge consumers to avoid oversize portions, enjoy their food but eat less of it and to drink water instead of sugary drinks.”
The plate was developed by USDA in concert with anti-obesity experts brought together by Fiurst Lady Michelle Obama, who has made nutrition and exercise a major focus of her time in the White House. The Times notes that USDA said “that it had conducted focus groups with about 4,500 people, including children, as they developed the new icon.”
Leslie Sarasin, president/CEO of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), said at the introductory press conference, “We believe the ‘Choose MyPlate’ graphic will resonate with the consumer’s actual home dining experience and provide useful nutrition guidance ... FMI and our member companies are always glad to cooperate with programs providing needed nutrition information and helpful encouragement to American consumers. We believe the new USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov program - and its supplemental resources - will work well with FMI's consumer information programs such as Nutrition Keys, which we are hard at work implementing.”
Ric Jurgens, chairman/CEO of Hy-Vee, released the following statement: "As a company committed to making peoples' lives easier, healthier and happier, we applaud the USDA and the Let's Move! initiative for taking this important step forward in nutrition education. We will do all we can to support the icon's success."
And Tom Stenzel, president/CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, said, "The new dietary guidance icon will be a tipping point in how Americans literally visualize what they should eat. The message to 'make half your plate fruits and vegetables' is simple, compelling and effective. It is a breakthrough message that consumers can practice every day at every meal. The produce industry is firmly committed to working closely with USDA and others to support the new dietary guidance and help promote "make half your plate fruits and vegetables" as part of a lifetime of healthy eating.”
- KC's View:
- There is other nutrition-related news, as there almost always is, running from the sublime to the ridiculous...
• In Hawaii, CNBC reports, the state’s Department of Health “is launching a campaign to urge the public to choose beverages with less sugar ... The media campaign warns ‘Don't Drink Yourself Fat’ and is part of a comprehensive effort to reduce obesity and chronic disease in Hawaii.
“Health officials say adult obesity in Hawaii has almost doubled between 1995 and 2009.”
• The Arizona Republic reports that the infamous Heart Attack Grill, located in Chandler, Arizona, and known for “calorie-laden fare and waitresses dressed in provocative nurse outfits,” has been closed.
No reason was given, but the closure came just months after “the sudden death of Heart Attack Grill's 575-pound spokesman, Blair River. Just 29, River was the face - and body - of the unabashedly unhealthy restaurant that featured burgers with names like the Quadruple Bypass Burger - a sandwich with four beef patties - and French fries cooked in lard. Anyone who weighed more than 350 pounds got a free meal, but they had to step on the restaurant's scale to prove it.”
I mention these two stories because they demonstrate something important - that no matter what the federal or state governments do, America’s ability to wrestle with the obesity epidemic rests with the will of its people to do something about it. Governments can and should provide guidance, and make sure that companies are honest about the products they are selling. That strikes me as a legitimate use of governmental power.
The shift from pyramid to plate is a smart one - it is easier to understand, and hopefully people will be able to more easily adapt their buying and eating habits to it. But government can only take us so far, at which point we must take the baton and make changes in our own lives.
I do believe that as retailers and manufacturers integrate these changes into their packaging and marketing plans, they will find themselves on the side of the consumer ... which is always a good place to be.