A Tale of Two Plates

Food Politics has a post about Harvard’s own version of USDA’s MyPlate.

(For those of you that don’t know, MyPlate is a substitute for the Food Pyramid, with the idea that it’s a better visual representation of what people ought to be eating). 

Here’s the Harvard Plate:


Here’s the USDA version:


In her post she poses an open-ended question about which one is better. 

On factual accuracy the Harvard one clearly wins. It accounts for food selection better and includes peripheral information that would make a dietician smile. But the useful difference between the two is minimal in my opinion.

One of the commenters nailed it:

What you all need to understand is that the reason why the USDA ‘plate’ is great, is its simplicity. It’s “Marketing 101″. Put out the advertisement that will be understood easily by the most people (in your target market). The USDA’s target market is essentially everyone.

With the exception of the people that read blogs like this one, most people out there will not analyze their food before they ingest it – “is this really whole grain?” or “did I already eat veggies of this color today?”. They’re not scientists or nutritionists. They’re just normal people going through life.


I’d also add that the history of these types of nudges would suggest that neither of them will end up making much of a difference.

2 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Plates”

  1. At least diagrams like these are a small step toward healthy eating education. People should really know more about this subject. I guess there are not many people eating as much fruits and vegetable as this “plates” advise. So many diseases today come from poor eating habits.


  2. Alex,Totally agree. Both of these represent incremental improvements over the old pyramid, and they allow the casual observer to better frame the issue in their minds. I just believe the additional information in the Harvard plate, while technically correct, will be lost on the casual observer.


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