Today, the U.S. government revealed a new graphic symbol meant to replace the previous teaching tool MyPyramid.

The new MyPlate is split into four sections with a circle shape next to it representing the inclusion of dairy products.  Carbohydrates are the basis of any diet and are represented on the plate within 3 categories: grains, fruits and vegetables.  Many dairy products, such as milk and yogurt also contain carbohydrates.  But, there is certainly more focus on fruits and vegetables, two of the food groups that are packed full of vitamins and minerals our bodies need.

The new tool is simple, straightforward and easy to understand, but without a doubt most will still requires some education.  Just a  few of the unanswered questions that remain:

Will Americans understand what foods fall into which groups?

While most of us can rattle of a few examples of fruits and vegetables, not everyone is as clear on what a protein is.  And, while understanding “grains” may seem simple for some, knowing exactly what fits into that category will present a challenge to others.  No matter how easy to understand the tool may seem, it must be paired with simple, easy to understand messages.

Where do healthy fats fit in?

Foods such as nuts, nut butters, seeds and olive oil can certainly be included as part of a healthy diet, but how much of these items can be consumed.  And, where do they fit.  A good place to start is as an addition to one of these foods groups.  Nuts or seeds mixed into morning yogurt, olive oil drizzled over a green salad or avocado spread on a sandwich in place of mayo.

What about my favorite dessert or sugars?

The food icon is a great visual to show what our meals should look like.  If our meals are healthy, there is undoubtedly going to be room for a favorite dessert or piece of chocolate.

Further, the dairy and fruit portion could make up the dessert.  Yogurt parfait, for example makes up the dairy and fruit section of the plate.

Now the hard part!

The new plate may look simple, but plate or no plate, behavior change is hard, and so the battle to eat right continues.  This new tool allows us to talk less about what to eat and will be used more as a guide to show what your plate should look like. But, we are still responsible for what we decide to put on the plate.  Making the change to a healthier lifestyle is the hard part for many.

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