Harvard’s “Healthy Eating Plate” Challenges US’s Government’s MyPlate

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 28th September 2011

Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) recently launched the Healthy Eating Plate, a visual guide that provides a blueprint for eating a healthy meal.

Its creators claim the Healthy Eating Plate provides a better way of understanding nutrition and addresses shortcomings in the US government’s MyPlate icon, which was introduced in June 2011 to replace the old Food Pyramid.

HSPH made the following criticisms of the US government’s MyPlate guide:

 MyPlate does not tell consumers that whole grains are better for health than refined grains

 MyPlate’s protein section offers no indication that some high-protein foods—fish, poultry, beans, nuts—are healthier than red meats and processed meats

 MyPlate does not mention beneficial fats; it does not distinguish between potatoes and other vegetables

 MyPlate had recommended dairy at every meal

 MyPlate says nothing about sugary drinks.

The MyPlate does not mention the importance of activity while the Healthy Eating Plate reminds people to stay active, an important factor in weight control.

By contrast, the HSPH’s Healthy Eating Plate provides quick-to-the-point guidance for each food category, such as:

Vegetables: “Eat an abundant variety, the more the better. Limited consumption of potatoes is recommended, however, as they are full of rapidly digested starch, which has the same roller-coaster effect on blood sugar as refined grains and sweets.”

Fruits: “Choose a rainbow of fruits every day.”

Whole Grains: “Choose whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice. Refined grains, such as white bread and white rice, act like sugar in the body. Eating too many refined grains can raise the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”

Healthy Proteins: “Choose fish, poultry, beans, or nuts, which contain healthful nutrients. Limit red meat and avoid processed meats, since eating even small quantities of these on a regular basis raises the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and weight gain.”

Healthy Oils: “Use olive, canola, and other plant oils in cooking, on salads, and at the table, since these healthy fats reduce harmful cholesterol and are good for the heart. Limit butter and avoid trans fat”.

Water: “Drink water, tea, or coffee (with little or no sugar). Limit milk and dairy (1-2 servings per day) and juice (1 small glass a day) and avoid sugary drinks.”

In HSPH’s “Healthy Eating Plate” the sizes of the sections suggest approximate relative proportions of each of the food groups to include on a healthy plate, rather than any specific calorie amounts. HSPH says the ‘Healthy Eating Plate’ is not meant to prescribe numbers for calorie servings per day, since these numbers vary from person to person.

Professor Walter Willett of Epidemiology and Nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, said “the Healthy Eating Plate is based on the best available scientific evidence and provides consumers with the information they need to make choices that can profoundly affect our health and well being.”