When the USDA unveiled MyPlate, I thought it was an improved version of the older Food Pyramid graphic but far from perfect. The new plate was visually understandable, but vague in its recommendations (making it difficult to use without visiting the website). Apparently the Harvard School of Public Health was thinking along the same lines and, in response, has created the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate.

The above graphic differs from the USDA’s in the following ways:

  • The cup is no longer dairy – but water, tea, or coffee. Dairy and juice should be limited, and sugar-sweetened beverages avoided entirely.
  • Grains has been changed to “whole grains,” a distinction which the graphic didn’t make before (and the website only recommended that half of your grains were whole grains)
  • Proteins is now “healthy proteins,” with an emphasis on lean proteins such as fish and poultry, and also including nuts and beans. Red or processed meats should be limited because they contain high amounts of saturated fat and are known to increase one’s risk of diabetes and heart disease.
  • The positions of fruits and vegetables are switched, to show that we need to eat more vegetables than fruit on a daily basis. Harvard states explicitly, “potatoes and french fries don’t count”  (unfortunately, potatoes are the only vegetable many Americans consume regularly).
  • A bottle of healthy oils is added to the graphic, a category which didn’t exist in the USDA graphic. Healthy fats, such as from olive oil or avocado, can help reduce cholesterol and encourage heart health.
  • Lastly, there’s a small shout-out to physical activity with the “stay active!” in the bottom left corner,  because physical activity is an essential component of healthy weight maintenance. The MyPlate graphic nixed any mention of exercise that had existed in the previous Food Pyramid graphic.

What do you think? I think it’s a definite improvement!

Image via Harvard