Healthy Eating Plate and Healthy Eating Pyramid

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A picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s why nutritionists use symbols and shapes to answer the question, “What should I eat?” 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 Their recommendations were based on out-of-date science and influenced by people with business interests in the messages the icons sent.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 MyPlateOpens in New Window—an improvement, yet one that still doesn’t go far enough to show people how to make the healthiest choices.

There are better alternatives: the new Healthy Eating Plate and the Healthy Eating Pyramid, both built by faculty members in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, in conjunction with colleagues at Harvard Health Publications. The Healthy Eating Plate fixes the flaws in USDA’s MyPlate, just as the Healthy Eating Pyramid rectifies the mistakes of the USDA’s food pyramids. Both the Healthy Eating Plate and the Healthy Eating Pyramid are based on the latest science about how our food, drink, and activity choices affect our health—and are unaffected by businesses and organizations with a stake in their messages.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid

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The Healthy Eating Pyramid is a simple, trustworthy guide to choosing a healthy diet. Its foundation is daily exercise andweight control, since these two related elements strongly influence your chances of staying healthy. The Healthy Eating Pyramid builds from there, showing that you should eat more foods from the bottom part of the pyramid (vegetables, whole grains) and less from the top (red meat, refined grains, potatoes, sugary drinks, and salt).

When it’s time for dinner, most of us eat off of a plate. So think of the new Healthy Eating Plate as blueprint for a typical meal: Fill half your plate with produce—colorful vegetables, the more varied the better, and fruits. (Remember, potatoes and French fries don’t count as vegetables!) Save a quarter of your plate forwhole grains. A healthy source of protein, such as fish, poultry, beans, or nuts, can make up the rest. The glass bottle is a reminder to use healthy oils, like olive and canola, in cooking, on salad, and at the table. Complete your meal with a cup of water, or if you like, tea or coffee with little or no sugar (not the milk or other dairy products that the USDA’s MyPlate recommends; limit milk/dairy products to one to two servings per day). And that figure scampering across the bottom of the placemat? It’s your reminder that staying active is half of the secret to weight control. The other half is eating a healthy diet with modest portions that meet your calorie needs—so be sure you choose a plate that is not too large.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid image on this Web site is owned by the Harvard University. It may be downloaded and used without permission for educational and other non-commercial uses with proper attribution, including the following copyright notification and credit line: Copyright © 2008. For more information about The Healthy Eating Pyramid, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health,www.thenutritionsource.org, and Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, by Walter C. Willett, M.D., and Patrick J. Skerrett (2005), Free Press/Simon & Schuster Inc. Any other use, including commercial reuse or mounting on other systems, requires permission from the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. To request permission, please contact us using the Healthy Eating Pyramid reprint request form on this Web site.

The Healthy Eating Plate image on this Web site is owned by the Harvard University. It may be downloaded and used without permission for educational and other non-commercial uses with proper attribution, including the following copyright notification and credit line: Copyright © 2011, Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, www.thenutritionsource.org, and Harvard Health Publications, health.harvard.edu. Any other use, including commercial reuse or mounting on other systems, requires permission from the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. To request permission, please contact us using the Healthy Eating Plate reprint request form on this Web site.

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The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Source is to provide timely information on diet and nutrition for clinicians, allied health professionals, and the public. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The information does not mention brand names, nor does it endorse any particular products.

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