It took almost 20 years of watching childhood obesity evolve into a nationwide epidemic to dispose of the familiar but ineffective food pyramid. It took Robert Post of the Agriculture Department's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion two years to turn that pyramid into a plate — and tell Americans what they should already know.
With first lady Michelle Obama in attendance, the USDA replaced the food pyramid with My Plate, a color-coded diagram replete with a fork and dairy dish that divides the plate into food groups. After 19 years, the pyramid will join the macarena, Pokemon and boy bands as 1990s relics. In its latest version, the food pyramid resembled the terror threat level chart. Then again, the nation's diet — or lack thereof — does pose a threat.
Calling the pyramid outdated, tired and overly complex, the Agriculture Department drew upon a seemingly bottomless pit of resources, including the first lady's anti-obesity team, federal health officials and focus groups. Together, they concluded the obvious — a plate could best send the message to eaters. Now My Plate's color-coded compartments will tell eaters that fruits and vegetables should make up half the plate, while protein should consume slightly less than a quarter.
With one in three children obese or overweight, a clearer dietary road map is a step in the right direction. The trick will be to follow it.