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'My Plate' to replace food pyramid for healthy eating

June 2, 2011 12:54:21 AM PDT
America's official guide to healthy eating is taking a new shape. The old food pyramid is being transformed into a symbol called "My Plate."

The new symbol, unveiled by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday, is simple and gives diners an idea of what should be on their plates when they sit down at the dinner table.

The guide looks like a dinner plate with four sections containing fruit, vegetables, protein and grains. There's a small serving of dairy, but the sweets are gone.

"This is a quick simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods we're eating, and as a mom, I can tell you this is going to help parents all across the country," said first lady Michelle Obama.

Vilsack said "My Plate" aims to show that nutrition doesn't have to be complicated.

After almost 20 years of preaching nutrition through a food pyramid that USDA officials now say was overly complex, obesity rates have skyrocketed.

The address of the accompanying website, choosemyplate.gov, is written on the chart. That website will eventually feature interactive tools that help people manage their weight and track exercise.

Robert Post of USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, who has spent two years developing the plate and the website, said the new chart is designed to be "more artistic and attractive" and to serve as a visual cue for diners.

The graphic is based on new USDA dietary guidelines released in January. Those guidelines, which are revised every five years, tell people to drastically reduce salt and continue limiting saturated fats. They ask diners to enjoy food, but balance calories by eating less and taking smaller portions. It also suggests making half of your plate fruits and vegetables - a message easily translated on the dinner plate.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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