Thursday, June 2, 2011

364. Michelle Obama Promotes a Healthier Diet; Healthier Power Plate Will Save Many Lives

Power Plate poster

America faces an epidemic of diet-related diseases. So it’s time for the federal government to step up to the plate and help spread the word about healthful nutrition. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture revises the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, PCRM is filing a petition asking the agency to throw out its confusing food guide, MyPyramid, and adopt a simple, plant-based alternative called the Power Plate.

Since the first Food Pyramid was introduced nearly two decades ago, obesity and diabetes have become commonplace. About 27 percent of young adults are now too overweight to qualify for military service, and an estimated one in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes.

“Millions of Americans are digging their own graves with a knife and a fork,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., PCRM’s nutrition director. “We’ve never had such a desperate need for clear, accurate nutrition advice. But MyPyramid is confusing, and it recommends meat and dairy products despite overwhelming evidence that these foods are unnecessary and unhealthful. We’ve got to do better.”

The Power Plate and the petition, filed with U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, have already received media coverage in various outlets, including The Des Moines Register and the St. Louis Globe Democrat.

The colorful, user-friendly Power Plate graphic is based on current nutrition research showing that plant-based foods are the most nutrient-dense and help prevent chronic diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. The graphic depicts a plate divided into four new food groups: fruits, grains, legumes, and vegetables. There are no confusing portion sizes and food hierarchies to follow; the Power Plate simply asks people to eat a variety of all four food groups each day. offers more information on plant-based diets, as well an interactive Power Plate diagram and quiz.

The USDA’s Food Pyramid, introduced in 1991, was a major step forward compared with past dietary recommendations because it asked people to eat more fruits and vegetables. But the Pyramid, and its later versions, recommend two to three servings each of meat and dairy products daily despite studies showing that these foods increase body weight, raise blood pressure, and drive up diabetes risk. The average American now consumes more than 215 pounds of meat a year—up from 144 pounds in 1950.

Learn more about this healthful alternative to the federal Food Pyramid at

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Today, June 2, 2011, the USDA unveiled its new MyPlate icon that recommends Americans fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables. But it’s at odds with agriculture subsidies that promote high-fat, high-calorie food products.

Where the Money Goes: The Foods That Subsidies Support

By William Neuman, The New York Times, June 2, 2011

The first lady, Michelle Obama, on Thursday relegated the government’s well-known food pyramid to the sands of history, unveiling a new, simpler image of a plate divided into basic food groups.

The new design, called MyPlate, was conceived as a crucial part of Mrs. Obama’s campaign against obesity, designed to remind consumers about the basics of a healthful diet.

The plate is split into four sections, for fruit, vegetables, grains and protein. A smaller circle sits beside it for dairy products.
Mrs. Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, the surgeon general, unveiled the new healthful eating icon at a news conference in Washington.
“This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating,” Mrs. Obama said. “We’re all bombarded with so many dietary messages that it’s hard to find time to sort through all this information, but we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates.”
If the filled plate looks like the symbol, with lots of fruits and vegetables, she said, “then we’re good, it’s as simple as that.”
The Agriculture Department has created a Web site,, that elaborates on the guidance reflected in the plate’s design. It includes tip sheets with recommendations like eating fish twice a week and avoiding high-fat, salty foods like salami and bologna.
Officials said they planned to use the plate in a campaign to communicate essential dietary guidelines to consumers, emphasizing one message at a time for the best effect.
The first part of the campaign will encourage people to make half their plate fruit and vegetables. Later phases will urge consumers to avoid oversize portions, enjoy their food but eat less of it and drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Nutritionists often criticized the food pyramid, which was first advanced in 1992, for being misleading or hard to understand. Some gave the plate cautious praise on Thursday.
“It’s better than the pyramid, but that’s not saying a lot,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University.
Dr. Nestle praised the plate for being generally easy to understand, but she said that labeling a large section of the plate “protein” was confusing and unnecessary, because grains and dairy products also are important sources of protein and most Americans get far more protein than they need.
But she said the emphasis on fruits and vegetables was a significant step.
“Americans aren’t used to eating this way, so this is a big change,” Dr. Nestle said.
The plate was created by the Agriculture Department with advice from the first lady’s anti-obesity team and federal health officials. The Agriculture Department said that it had conducted focus groups with about 4,500 people, including children, as it developed the plate.
The project, with the Web site and related educational materials, cost about $2 million. That money will also help pay for an educational campaign about the plate over the next year, officials said.

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