Will the New Food Pyramid End Obesity?

June 30, 2011

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You may have heard that the USDA recently replaced the Food Pyramid model with a new concept called MyPlate in an attempt to make eating well easier and help curtail the obesity epidemic. But will it work?

In short, I don’t think so. While I admire that the effort was an attempt to make understanding good nutrition easier (one criticism of the former Food Pyramid model, which some said was too complicated), it almost simplifies things too much.

For example, the My Plate model focuses on how much the servings on your plate should be made up of things like protein, dairy, fruits, veggies, and grains.

In addition, the recommendations also include some general guidelines such as eating less but enjoying your food more, watching portion sizes, filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, making half of the grains you eat whole grains, switching to 1% or fat-free milk, reducing sodium intake, and replacing sugary drinks with water.

This super simple approach could backfire, for instance, if someone considers broccoli swimming in cheese sauce to be an acceptable vegetable option, or that chicken fried steak counts as a protein choice. While those foods do contain vegetables and protein, they are hardly healthy or low-calorie choices, even in 1/4-plate portions.

Likewise, I think the MyPlate model is too general and doesn’t compensate for the different nutritional needs of children vs. teens vs. adults vs. seniors, for example, or for men and women, or for those with medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease.

Another issue I have with the MyPlate approach is that even a nutritionist would likely struggle to come up with simple yet healthy meals that would fit this mixed plate recommendation for each and every meal of the day. Plus, the model doesn’t specify how big of a plate they are talking about. And yet studies have shown that the trend toward serving up meals on larger and larger plates and other oversized dinnerware is playing a role in obesity.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see MyPlate soon replaced with yet another model for eating well, as the Four Food Groups and the Food Pyramid have been. It’s a shame that despite millions of dollars in funds and some of the best minds in the field of nutrition participating in its development, it’s likely to do nothing to offset America’s growing obesity epidemic.

If you want to lose weight and fight obesity, my advice would be to skip general recommendations like this one and to make an appointment with a team of physicians, dietitians, and other experts like those at The Center for Medical Weight Loss who specialize in and really understand weight issues and can develop a program tailored just for you.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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