WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week unveiled a new icon to encourage healthful eating, dubbed “MyPlate,” that was applauded by some industry groups for its clarity.
The five-color icon features a dinner plate divided into four quadrants representing proteins, grains, fruits and vegetables, plus a blue “dairy” circle representing a glass of low-fat milk. The USDA launched the website choosemyplate.gov as a resource for the new effort, which replaces mypyramid.gov.
The pyramid symbol, which had been in use since the early 1990s, was “too complex to serve as a quick and easy guide for busy families,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a press conference here introducing the new icon. The MyPlate symbol, by contrast, is “a simple, visual icon that sends a message about what should be on people's plates,” he said.
The icon will accompany a series of messages about diet and exercise, beginning with the suggestion that consumers fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables, as indicated on the icon. Other messages include eating whole grains as half of grain intake, eating smaller portions, replacing sugary drinks with water, and seeking low-sodium foods — all part of the USDA's 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released early this year.
Vilsack also cited the support of Food Marketing Institute and the United Fresh Produce Association, and the presidents of both organizations spoke at the press conference.
“This new icon will serve supermarket shoppers as a vivid reminder of what to put in their shopping carts so that it will later become part of a well-balanced plate,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and chief executive officer, FMI.
Added Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of produce trade group United Fresh, “The breakthrough message to make half your plate fruits and vegetables is simple, compelling and effective. It is a message that consumers can practice every day at every meal.”
The Produce Marketing Association is “extremely pleased to see the USDA move in this direction that not only benefits our industry, but more importantly helps consumers make better choices for a healthy lifestyle,” said Bryan Silbermann, president and CEO of PMA.
Grocery Manufacturers Association said it “looks forward to observing and studying consumer reaction to the revised guidelines and the new icon in the coming months and years.”
(See story USDA Launches Food Guide for more reactions.)
USDA said it would unveil later this year an online tool that consumers can use to manage their dietary and physical activity choices.