US & World

Food pyramid becomes a food circle in makeover

The new food plate was released on June 2, 2011.
The new food plate was released on June 2, 2011.
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The federal government rolled out a new version of its iconic food pyramid, today. The pyramid was replaced by a plate graphic (above). The plate has four colored sections representing fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins. Next to the plate is a smaller circle for dairy foods. Why the makeover? Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University explains.

According to Nestle, the current pyramid (pictured right), "is impossible to use. What do those stripes mean?" she asks. "I call it foodless and useless."

She says it's hard for consumers to understand it quickly, and that's a problem, especially because it's meant to be interactive. "The people who need it most are unlikely to have computers," she says.

The food pyramid has a political history. Past redesigns have resulted in lobbying from various industries – meat, dairy, grain producers.

The new design may draw fire, too. Nestle predicts a possible backlash from the cattle industry and the dairy lobby.

Why is the government dumping the pyramid now? Obama has made eliminating child obesity a priority and the circle puts a greater emphasis on fruits and vegetables.

But, should consumers bother paying attention? Nestle thinks so. "I think it's worth taking seriously. It's so much better than anything that there's been before. And it so much better reflects where current thinking is about dietary advice."

And she thinks that the public will have an easier time using it. "You can tell somebody that you're supposed to take a dinner plate and you're supposed to have half of it with fruits and vegetables. You don't have to count the number of servings – just look at what you have on your plate. That's a huge step forward."

Updated on June 2, 2011.