For nearly two decades, the U.S. government distilled its nutrition advice into pyramids. These efforts didn’t accurately show people what makes up a healthy diet. Why? Their recommendations were based on out-of-date science and influenced by people with business interests in the messages the icons sent. This year, the U.S. government scrapped its MyPyramid icon in favor of the fruit-and-vegetable rich MyPlate—an improvement, yet one that still doesn’t go far enough to show people how to make the healthiest choices.
Researchers in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, in conjunction with Harvard Health Publications, are now offering alternative icons to MyPyramid and MyPlate.
Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate adds emphasis on healthy fats and water, mentioning that diary should be limited to 1-2 servings per day. Physical activity is also a part of each of Harvard’s graphics. Read a comprehensive comparison of the icons here.
While the Healthy Eating Plate addresses some of the shortcomings of the USDA’s MyPlate, it’s been criticized as being to “nutritionally annoying“. Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate may be too text heavy for some, and unrealistic for others, putting in place barriers to behavior change.
Neither are perfect. Nutrition is complex. Without greater education and support from nutrition professionals in our schools, health care system, and communities, simple guides to healthy eating alone won’t cut it in our struggle to realize a healthier nation.