MyPlate vs. The USDA Food Pyramid: What You Need to Know

Which One is Better?

Despite what you'd prefer to look at, health professionals agree there are benefits and drawbacks for both a pyramid and a plate format.

One of the benefits is the familiarity of a plate, but not just for those who are eating a healthy meal. "Many nutrition professionals have been using a plate method similar to this to educate clients for years. The assumption is that if you eat off of a normal-sized plate (9 inches in diameter or smaller), and if you don't pile your food up too high, you're eating a normal, healthy amount for weight management," says Nicole Nichols, Health Educator.

However, the plate size isn't clear nor has it been addressed on the website. With an emphasis on portion control in the American diet, this is a critical component that's simply gone missing.

The plate also fails to address meal sizes for those who eat more than three meals a day, which is a popular trend in healthy eating.

Finally, with sweets and fats gone from the diagram, a critical piece of an average American diet is left untouched. "Truth is, Americans are going to eat their fats and desserts, so teaching how to account for them is important, too," says Grace Derocha from A Healthier Michigan. It's important to note that they do address oils on the website, but not sweets.  

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Alternative Pyramids

If you're not a fan of the USDA pyramid or plate, there are plenty of alternatives that include more detailed information on vitamins, food group options, healthy activity and more:

  • The Healthy Eating Pyramid: Designed by the Harvard School of Public Health, this pyramid has multiple layers, starting with daily exercise and weight control as the base. If you're already well versed in health and nutrition, this may be the best option for you.
  • The Asian Diet Pyramid: While this pyramid contains many of the same food groups as the American version, it puts meat specifically at the top, with other proteins such as legumes and fish in more prominent spots. You can learn more about the benefits of this pyramid at
  • The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: This diet has long been praised as one of the best in the world. Now you can use it to create your own diet. The easy to understand pyramid also puts meat at the top of the list, with other healthy proteins and fats in the second to bottom spot, preceded only by physical activity. Find more information at

Old Ways Health Through Heritage doesn't just support the Mediterranean and Asian diets, they offer detailed information on many more including those from the African and Latino heritage, as well. Find the best one for you at their website.

Regardless of the drawbacks, the new version of the USDA pyramid does what it was intended to do: simplify the dietary guidelines and put them in a format that everyone can understand and remember come mealtime. However, if you're not a fan of either format, turn to an alternative pyramid to guide your healthy lifestyle.  

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