A guide to the My Plate icon

My Plate Guide

By now you’ve probably seen, or at least heard about, the new “My Plate” icon. If you’ve taken a moment to click over to the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov website, you’ve also seen that they have seven key takeaways as part of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines (sadly, only one of which is actually conveyed by the icon), along with lots of explanatory information about the icon and the Guidelines.

The icon is, by intent, incredibly simplistic. I’m actually a fan overall, since it distills everything down to the essences (and as I’ve said before, I love that it’s a plate, not a pyramid).

So the website is needed to back up the icon with supporting information and (mostly good) advice. But what if you’re in your kitchen, not at your desk? How do you know if your meal is going to stack up?

Simple! Just print out this free Guide to the My Plate Icon, and post it on your fridge for the whole family to see. Do it. Do it now!

The Eating Rules Guide to the “My Plate” Icon (8 ½” x 11″ one-page PDF, 265kb)

If you’d like to share this guide on your own website or blog, please be respectful (and law-abiding) and share it by linking directly to this post. Please do not link directly to the PDF or copy the PDF to your own server.  Thanks!

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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September 1, 2011 7:37 pm

The My Plate icon superficially resembles the PCRM plate, but there’s a world of difference. The only difference between the USDA’s current “My Plate” and its 1956 “Basic Four” food groups is that the Meat group has been renamed “protein” (even the original “meat” group included beans) and fruits and vegetables are now in separate groups. Even calling one group “protein” provides the misleading impression that the other groups lack protein. Unfortunately, the USDA is still urging people to eat plenty of meat and dairy foods in order to make sure that they get “enough” protein. Yet it’s practically impossible to find any documented cases of pure protein deficiency or calcium deficiency in the medical literature. Meanwhile, the meat and dairy foods are the major contributing causes of our major causes of death and disability. There’s no need for meat or dairy foods and no justification for encouraging people to… Read more »

Reply to  Andrew
September 15, 2011 4:20 pm

Harvard’s system isn’t really much better than USDA’s, and the people at Harvard should know better because they’re supposed to be smart. It’s illogical to sort foods into fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins. The first three categories describe a kind of plant tissue that tends to have certain properties. The fourth category describes a class of chemicals found in all living tissue. Protein is also found in substantial amounts in grains and vegetables! In other words, the categories aren’t mutually exclusive. Vegetables and grains provide all of the protein that human beings would need, yet they aren’t included in “protein,” thus falsely implying that people must eat something other than vegetables and grains to get enough protein. Furthermore, some of the particular bits of advice that the Harvard system gives aren’t supported by scientific evidence. There’s no reason to recommend that people eat poultry or fish. People should be told… Read more »

September 1, 2011 6:56 pm


August 22, 2011 4:53 pm

The plate graphic is easier to understand than the pyramid, but it still gives bad nutritional advice: http://wheredogorillasgettheirprotein.blogspot.com/2011/06/plates-not-much-better-than-pyramid.html

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has a much better plate graphic, one that gives advice that can restore people to health: http://wheredogorillasgettheirprotein.blogspot.com/2011/06/pcrms-plate-is-better-than-usdas.html

June 18, 2011 3:47 am

Excellent work, Andrew!

June 15, 2011 11:10 am

Andrew, I’m glad to hear your perspective on this, because I like the new structure, too, in many ways. It takes away the rigidity of the pyramid, which seemed to imply that if you weren’t following it by number of things eaten, you weren’t going to be a healthy person. My Plate allows for different lifestyles and cultures to apply it for healthful living, and gives everyone control over the answer, within a certain set of guidelines.

June 15, 2011 4:34 am

Really fantastic, Andrew! Really nothing to add to your excellent work.

Despite obvious bowing to various Big Food lobbies (and other widely-covered shortcomings), I do feel like the plate is a huge improvement since a mountain-like pyramid of food was just ridiculous! I generally think that I’m past the USDA needing to tell me how to eat (shudder shudder), but I think this is a useful visual for those that are just learning about eating well.


June 14, 2011 3:35 pm

Excellant. I wonder is there’s an app yet. That would be handy when you’re out and about.

June 14, 2011 2:17 pm

love love LOVE this. Great summary and who doesn’t love a cheat sheet??? i do like that they say “Protein” and not “Meat”…(not just b/c I’m vegetarian) it broadens that group. And i am a fan of “rainbow” foods. Glad you mentioned that. Thanks!