If you’ve ever looked into improving your diet, you have probably run into the MyPlate graphic put out by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). We generally accept the MyPlate plan as the standard when thinking of recommended food groups and servings, but is it really the best option? Are there any alternatives that still provide proper nutrition without venturing into the realm of fad dieting? For those interested, Harvard School of Public Health has put out a “Healthy Eating Plate” graphic, which is similar to MyPlate in its applicability, but offers an alternative which some believe may be more relevant when it comes planning a meal with optimum health in mind.
Harvard’s “Healthy Eating Plate”
Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate looks almost identical to the USDA’s MyPlate, but Harvard aims to help the public by highlighting a few things that MyPlate doesn’t. For example, the “Healthy Eating Plate” had added reminders to drink enough water, eat leaner proteins, and get exercise. This plate is a great tool for anyone to use because it emphasizes parts of a healthy diet that are often overlooked, such as consuming healthy oils. Additionally, the “Plate” explains healthy choices in each food group to aid users. While Harvard’s “Plate” is simple and clear, it’s not particularly attractive to look at, nor is it interactive. Harvard’s biggest claim to fame is that its graphic is not funded by any commercial or political agenda, which means it is less inclined to give biased recommendations.
The USDA’s MyPlate is probably slightly better known than the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate. It too is easy to use and includes recommendations for fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, and grains. The graphic itself does not differentiate between healthy or unhealthy options for each category, but the website and associated online program as a whole does expand on these concepts in great detail. Along with convenient tracking tools that allow users to track their diets and receive recommendations, the USDA provides users with a wealth of resources that may help them better tackle their healthy eating goals. These resources may be of particular advantage to those with children who need simple images and ideas to get started. Unfortunately, MyPlate can’t escape the controversies associated with the USDA. Some question its affiliation with organizations like the Dairy Council and the potential biases present from such affiliations. some do question whether the recommendations given are biased due to its affiliation with big names like the Dairy Council backing up its use.
In the end, both images provides very basic nutritional advice for anyone looking to improve his or her diet. Regardless of which you choose to use, if any, remember to use these symbols as visual reminders to stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet. For more advanced nutrition education and meal planning ideas, consider meeting with a registered dietitian to determine a unique plan just for you.
Do you use either graphic for planning your meals? Tell us about it in the comments.