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Harvard Researchers Question USDA and Use of “MyPlate”

Back in June, the USDA got rid of the food pyramid it used to represent healthy eating habits. This has since been replaced with My Plate. The USDA said the purpose of the food plate was to help Americans simplify their diets.

Walter Willet is a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard. He says the USDA may have done its job too well. The concept of a food plate is almost too simple. He feels it doesn’t provide the information Americans need to understand how to make healthy food choices.

Healthy Eating Plate - image credit: hsph.harvard.edu

Harvard’s Alernative -Healthy Eating Plate

Willet and other researchers from Harvard have chosen a different approach. They believe the food plate is still a good idea. However, they have modified it slightly.

The food plate Harvard uses attempts to ignore the interests of the agricultural industry. Willet says the plate the USDA constructed faces the same problems as the pyramid. The USDA’s advice is influenced by large agricultural companies, which does not lead to healthy eating decisions.

There are a few limitations of the governments plate:

  1. Different fats. One of them is the way the plate regarded all fats as the same. Some fats are much healthier and necessary than others.
  2. Cuts of meat. Also, the governments suggestions were based on the concept that every meat was part of the same food group. Consumers believed if they had their 3 servings of meat they were maintaining a healthy diet. The pyramid and plate developed by the USDA let consumers down in this regard. Leaner, white meats such as chicken tend to be much healthier than red meats such as beef or pork.
  3. Ignores diversity of fruits and vegetables. The USDA just recommends consumers eat fruits. The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate suggests diversifying fruits. Eating fruits and vegetables with different colors helps ensure people are eating a diet that is rich in all necessary nutrients.
  4. Focus on whole grains. The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate also emphasizes something else the USDA neglects. The USDA plate just suggests eating a diet with grains. The Harvard plate talks about eating whole grains in the diet. Unlike refined grains, whole grains are not processed like sugar and do not lead to diabetes or other health problems.
  5. Drinking beverages. The USDA made misleading statements as to what consumers should be drinking each day. They thought they should have several glasses of milk and juice. The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate suggests limiting these beverages and focusing on drinking plenty of water instead. Ironically, the Harvard study also suggests people drink coffee and tea instead of drinking milk. This is obviously a huge difference from what consumers were taught growing up.

The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate should offer many benefits to Americans. As a whole, Americans have had a difficult time finding a healthy diet. Perhaps now that they can be a little better informed, they will be able to make healthier eating decisions.

Kalen Smith is a professional Internet marketer, consumer researcher and writer. He has been a writer for Weight Loss Triumph and is the cofounder of the blog Great Paleo Diet Cookbooks, where he writes about the paleo diet and lifestyle.

4 Comments

  1. Nick Lynsar

    September 23, 2011 at 5:19 am

    Hi, it’s very nice information about Harvard Researchers Question USDA and Use of MyPlate thanks for sharing

  2. Coach Levi

    September 23, 2011 at 5:07 am

    Props to Harvard, they did a good job. That’s the plate the USDA should have done, but as was mentioned, they’re controlled by the agriculture industry and have to recommend “food groups” that are actually “products from big agriculture companies.”

    Would it kill them to put the word “fat” somewhere on it, though? I mean, some people probably think the oil container means salad dressing!

    • Jarret

      September 23, 2011 at 6:15 am

      Hey coach, lol, I was thinking the same thing.

  3. Pingback: The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate Offers Politics-Free Nutritional Guidelines – Lifehacker : organic-info.com – Healthy Eating | Free Tips and Information

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