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Pyramids and Plates

My Plate has become the food icon that replaces My Pyramid. To food companies and retailers it means changing labels, updating support materials — and doing it fast in order to take advantage of the momentum caused by the introduction.

Even with all the publicity, it's likely our customers will find this a ho-hum kind of experience unless we put some life into the icon. For us dietitians, that's easy since My Plate is a visual that can be a great teaching tool. Here are some basic ideas but do check out to get additional inspiration. And know that the basic information in the Pyramid still valid!

• Assemble some sample “plates” of featured foods remembering that the groups are half fruits and veggies with veggies making up slightly more than one-quarter of that amount; and one-quarter each of proteins (not just meat) and grains (with half as whole grains). To the side is the serving of dairy that can include milk, yogurt or cheese (for protein). Soy beverages also fit here, making it easier for those not choosing dairy. By assembling the samples using an 8- or 9-inch plate, you are giving customers a look at variety, balance… and appropriate portion sizes.

• Check out the major guidelines included with the basic materials that talks about keeping sodium, added sugar, and fat under control. In a big departure from the old pyramid icon, note that fat is no longer a food group.

• Show how the foods that fit on a plate can be made into a meal and a snack. For example, a breakfast of cereal with milk, fruit or juice still has room to incorporate a snack like celery (veggie) with peanut butter.

Guidelines for using the icon including graphic specifications are on the USDA website. Time for us to step up to the plate!