Today Michelle Obama unveiled MyPlate, a new symbol for what Americans should be eating. For the first time the government is presenting nutritional information in a shape that people can easily visualize, rather than an image of a rainbow emanating from a disco ball next to a dude with no extremities. That's what we call progress!
MyPlate, which was developed by the Agriculture Department, features quadrants with fruits and vegetables taking up one half of a plate, with grains and proteins filling the other side. Dairy has its own saucer off to the side. According to the Associated Press, Obama says the new shape will make it easier for parents to make their kids' meals healthy:
"Parents don't have the time to measure out exactly three ounces of protein," Mrs. Obama said as she introduced the new graphic. "We do have time to look at our kids' plates."
The new guideline is the cornerstone of Obama's anti-obesity campaign, so naturally it will only be a matter of time before Republicans are calling her un-American for not leaving a space for apple pie. However, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack notes that MyPlate doesn't suggest there's no room for everyone's favorite piece of the old pyramid, "Fats, Oils & Sweets":
"We are not telling people what to eat, we are giving them a guide," he said. "We're not suggesting they should not have a cookie or dessert, that's not what it's about."
Nutritionists weren't fond of MyPyramid, and Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University takes issue with the "protein" portion of MyPlate. She points out to the New York Times that grains and dairy also provide protein, and Americans are getting too much of the stuff anyway. However, she praised the graphic for emphasizing fruits and vegetables. The new half-plate guideline may be a shock to those who consider tomato sauce on pizza a sufficient serving of veggies for the day. Overall, Nestle offered this assessment: "It's better than the pyramid, but that's not saying a lot." That's probably as close to a rave review as the government is going to get.