A "Real Food" Guide to MyPlate (INFOGRAPHIC) | Civil Eats

A “Real Food” Guide to MyPlate (INFOGRAPHIC)

In my recent critique of the new USDA dietary guidelines, I wrote that we’ll never see a real food version of MyPlate as long as the food industry holds sway over the guidelines and USDA continues to promote industrial foods.

While this is true, there’s no reason we can’t create our own “Real Food” version of MyPlate to promote what we think is healthy and what’s not. Admittedly, it’s difficult to convey a lot of information in a single graphic, but, in my opinion as a certified nutrition educator, MyPlate promotes foods that are unhealthy. There are structural problems with MyPlate as well—dairy should be included in the protein category and the glass next to the plate should be water.

Allowing industrial food corporations to influence the dietary guidelines—from dairy and meat to apple juice and corn flakes—makes it clear that the health of the American people is not the USDA’s top priority.

My “Real Food” approach to MyPlate clearly conveys what I think should be included and what should not be, and has no agenda other than presenting the healthiest real food diet for all Americans. The underpinnings of a real food diet is focused on plant-based, whole foods that are organic and sourced local, when possible.

Bottom Line: Simply giving these guidelines isn’t going to change the fact that too many Americans lack access to real foods. Change doesn’t appear to be happening from the top down anytime soon. In the meantime, by providing clear and accurate guidelines based on “Real Food,” I hope Americans can see what a “healthy” diet really looks like and start demanding access to these foods.

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The following is an infographic of my “Real Food” Guide to MyPlate by Voltier Creative:

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Kristin Wartman is a journalist who writes about food, health, politics, and culture. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Huffington Post and many others. Kristin's first book, Formerly Known as Food—a critical look at how the industrial food system is changing our minds, bodies, and culture—is forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press. Read more >

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  1. Thanks! I also enjoyed Eating Rules's take on this:

  2. Teresa Sitz
    Should the plate be modified for different ages?
  3. Love this. So much better - and really, the importance of unrefined, whole foods as a focus has the potential to shift our "nutrition" education.

    Great way to set the bar!! Let's push it.

    PS. Have you lobbied or spoken with anybody in government re this?
  4. Teresa,

    Yes, people of different ages as well as people with various health concerns would benefit from a customized version -- modified to suit their needs. This is an overview of general guidelines so people have a basic understanding of a real food diet.

  5. What about avocados? Olives?

    I also think the phrase "nutrient-dense" while awesome in a scientific sense, is not something the general public really understands. Certainly not how to apply it while shopping.

    Yes, the plate should be modified for age groups. For example, avoiding choking hazards for small children. Fish high in mercury should be avoided by pregnant women and young children, and elderly folks should be sure to consume sufficient B-12 and water. Etc. Maybe that'll be my blog post project... age-based my plates!
  6. drew
    First off, I think MyPlate is a step in the right direction (especially coming from MyPyramid). While it is easy for us to take healthiness to the extreme you must remember that MyPlate is meant to appeal to every American, many of whom cannot afford the fresh and healthiest alternatives. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables contain nutrients equivalent to their fresh counterparts at a lower price (with some added convenience). Also, it is important to note that 45-65% of your calories should be coming from (mostly whole-grain, non-refined) carbohydrates (they provide the fuel to power your body -- glucose!). I am a huge proponent of a vegetable laden diet for the satiating power alone (not to mention the vitamins and minerals they provide).

    I think the most important thing to take away from MyPlate is portion-control, including fruits and vegetables, and reduce intake of refined sugars (liquid and solid).

    -a concerned nutrition student

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