I’ve mentioned before in previous posts that I’m not a fan of the USDA’s MyPlate guidance for healthy eating. I’m going to talk here about a few of the major concerns I have, and why I steer my clients towards other approaches instead.
The Graphic is Unclear.
In its quest for simplicity, the MyPlate approach fails to provide clear guidance. Take another look at the graphic. It seems to suggest you’d want to drink milk (or eat dairy) at every meal. In fact, it seems to suggest that you’ll be eating servings of fruits, grains, vegetables and protein at every meal as well. That’s not a useful concept.
And what size plate does the graphic represent? A sedentary person in their 60’s won’t be eating the same amount as an active person in their 20’s.
Not all Vegetables (or Proteins, or Fruits) are Created Equal.
In the MyPlate graphic, there’s a space for “vegetables,” but filling a quarter of my plate with spinach is not going to be the same as a quarter of my plate with green beans or broccoli. Only when you dig deeper into the USDA website to you discover that they consider “vegetables” to be made up of five subgroups Dark-Green Vegetables, Red and Orange Vegetables, Starchy Vegetables, Beans and Peas, and Other Vegetables.
Unfortunately, your research isn’t done yet. How much of those vegetables should you eat if you’re following the MyPlate? Well, for women 31-50 years old (and that’s a really big range), it’s 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day.
But another USDA chart says that the 2 1/2 cups per day should be divided up in particular proportions of those various vegetable subgroups over the course of the week. For example, that same group of women, on a weekly basis, should try to eat:
- 1 1/2 cups per week of Dark Green Vegetables
- 5 1/2 cups per week of Red and Orange Vegetables
- 1 1/2 cups per week of Beans and Peas
- 5 cups per week of Starchy Vegetables, and
- 4 cups per week of Other Vegetables.
But we’re still not done. Poking around more on the USDA website you’ll find that a cup of baby spinach is actually equal to a half-cup equivalent in the Vegetables Group (Dark-Green Subgroup), not a full cup.
Look, I understand that if a person normally eats fast food and Hot Pockets, and drinks 4 or 5 cans of soda a day, then working off the MyPlate structure is going to be an improvement. But then again, virtually any change would be an improvement.
The MyPlate protocol would have you loading up your plate with grains like wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal and barley. Unfortunately, grains (whole or not), are absolutely not a necessary or essential part of a healthy diet. There’s no nutrient or macronutrient in a grain that you can’t get from a more healthful food, and without all the problems that grains can create for so many people. (We’re talking about systemic inflammation, gut and digestion problems, AND insulin resistance – not to mention inevitable weight gain caused by all of these side effects).
What About Food Quality?
Unfortunately, the MyPlate guidance doesn’t take food quality into account. It continues the dangerous idea of “dietary fat is bad for you.” It doesn’t steer you towards cage-free eggs, grass-fed or pasture-raised meats, organic fruits and vegetables, or whole milk dairy products.
We need to set our sights higher than that.
It’s not about eating the perfect diet, it’s about cutting out the junk — in all its forms. Fruit juices? Gone. Pasta and bread? Get rid of them; they wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. White rice? Ditto. Anything labelled “reduced fat” or “fat free”? Stop eating that junk.
If you want to embrace the simplicity of MyPlate without the absurd and dangerous recommendations, consider this rule of thumb – Eat veggies with every meal. Embrace healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, ghee, and fat rendered from animals. Choose the best meats available to you (organic, grass fed, hormone free etc…) Cut sugar and grains out of your diet.
And if you still want a graphic to guide you, consider the one created by the Primal Blueprint.