USDA Aims to Crush Obesity Epidemic with Flashy New Food Plate

Posted on by Jason Arango (jarango)
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When it comes to eating, Americans aren't exactly known for showing restraint. However, you can hardly blame nutritional ignorance for our country's ballooning waistlines. Back in 1992, the USDA adopted the Food Pyramid to help educate Americans about the components of a well-balanced diet. The chart was cribbed from Denmark, where it had been published 14 years prior, and offered a simple breakdown of food groups and recommended serving sizes. It might not have been a flawless model, but it certainly offered an unambiguous stance on the frequency with which you should consume fats and sweets.

What part of "use sparingly" do people not understand?

The chart was attacked for not making the distinction between different types of fats, some of which can be a valuable part of your diet, and for promoting dietary choices that could ultimately lead to heart disease (e.g., a daily Double-Quarter Pounder would still fall under the recommended protein guidelines). However, as a basic framework it offered a reasonable starting point for educating people about nutrition.

Fast-forward to 2005. Following significant pressure from lobbyists hoping their product could get a larger stake in the pyramid, the USDA released an updated version of the Food Pyramid called MyPyramid. It was a confusing mess that removed recommended servings, added daily exercise, and encouraged people to go to the MyPyramid website to "personalize their approach." Oh yeah, and the government spent $2.4 million hiring a PR firm to put this mess together.

Well, at least it added exercise...

Unfortunately, MyPyramid was almost completely useless. It was almost as if a vague illustrative guide of how to eat didn't have much impact on the decisions Americans were making when it came to their daily habits. Now, with obesity continuing to rise, it was time for dire action, and the Obama administration stepped up to the plate with the following:

Behold, the New Food Plate!

Total cost: $2 million.

If you're thinking this seems like an absurd waste of money for an equally ambiguous graphic, you probably haven't been to the website yet. The MyPlate website includes revolutionary tips such as "Avoid oversized portions," and "Drink water instead of sugary drinks." Because everyone knows the real problem in America is that people genuinely believe ludicrously over-sized portions and 64 ounce big gulps are part of a balanced diet. It couldn't possibly be that a lot of people just don't care...

MyPlate seems about as futile as putting warnings on cigarettes, and we've essentially made a lateral move from one type of visual to another. It's almost like the PR firm took $2 million just to swap out a bar graph for a pie chart. Well done! Maybe MyPlate will turn things around and everyone will be conscientious about making sure their fruit portion corresponds with the properly sized wedge, but the more likely scenario is that a giant wedge of apple pie topped with ice cream will still be covering most of our plates.

Will MyPlate help improve people's eating habits?

2329 views & 11 votes

Debate It! 5

I like the fact that "Dairy" is an arbitrarily-sized circle. The scaling for this new plate design is horrible. Bring back the old-school pyramid!

Posted By Rebecca,

How do you spend 2.4 mil and come up with a website that horrific?

Posted By gregfinn,

If they want to crush obesity, they are going to have to ban all fast food joints, that is what is making America fat.

Posted By WotWoo,

The funny thing is, my steak actually takes up the whole plate. Does that mean it is a member of four foodgroups?

Posted By MisterJeremiah,

This may or may not be a stupid idea, but why dont they have people 16+ sign a consent form for fastfood places? Itd freak me out, as itd literally be telling you that there is a higher chance of death for going to places like those.

Posted By mist13,

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