Harvard researchers unveil Healthy Eating Plate
Sept. 15, 2011
by Eric Schroeder
BOSTON — Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (H.S.P.H.) yesterday unveiled the “Healthy Eating Plate,” a visual guide that provides a blueprint for eating a healthy meal. The image is similar to the MyPlate icon introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this year, but according to the H.S.P.H. addresses some of the shortcomings in the government’s version.
“Unfortunately, like the earlier U.S. Department of Agriculture Pyramids, MyPlate mixes science with the influence of powerful agricultural interests, which is not the recipe for healthy eating,” said Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition at the H.S.P.H. “The Healthy Eating Plate is based on the best available scientific evidence and provides consumers with the information they need to make choices that can profoundly affect our health and well being.”
While the images are similar, the H.S.P.H. version has more specifics. The H.S.P.H. adds “whole” to the grain section, and in the commentary accompanying the image notes, “Eat whole grains (like brown rice, whole wheat bread, and whole grain pasta). Limit refined grains (like white rice and white bread).”
Like the government’s version, the H.S.P.H. image devotes half the plate to fruits and vegetables, with more vegetables than fruit. But the H.S.P.H. plate features vegetables on top of fruits, and specifically singles out potatoes, noting “potatoes and french fries don’t count.”
Additionally, the H.S.P.H. plate modifies the “protein” part of the plate with “healthy.”
“Choose fish, poultry, beans, and nuts; limit red meat; avoid bacon, cold cuts, and other processed meats,” the H.S.P.H. notes alongside the healthy protein section.
Two other differences are the presence of a glass of water, tea or coffee (with very little sugar) rather than the serving of dairy the U.S.D.A. endorses, and the addition of a bottle of oil off to the side.
“Use healthy oils (like olive and canola oil) for cooking, on salad, and at the table,” the H.S.P.H. noted. “Limit butter. Avoid trans fat.”
Finally, the H.S.P.H. image features a “Stay Active” symbol on the bottom left corner.
“We want people to use this as a model for their own healthy plate or that of their children every time they sit down to a meal — either at home or at a restaurant,” said Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the H.S.P.H. and a member of the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
For more information on the Harvard image visit www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource.