It's meant to replace the food pyramid, which I loathe. (And so should anyone who is not making a ton of money off agribusiness.)
So, how did they do? Is it an improvement? I'd say it is definitely an improvement, though they're still missing the mark by a lot.
How it is better:
- I like that they have abandoned the notion of a pyramid. A pyramid implies that there is some kind of base (most unfortunately, grains and starches). That is not necessary. I might eat more veggies than meat, someone else might eat more meat than veggies, and heck, the Katavans ate more tubers and fruits than anything else. All are healthy options. Having a pyramid implies that ratios are the most important thing, when instead food quality and the absence of gut irritating and inflammatory foods is key.
- I have to admit, I really like the idea of a plate. It sends the message that you are sitting down and enjoying a meal, not rushing to eat something out of a box or wrapper. And the divided plate suggests a more meat/potatoes/veggie approach, which is a huge step in the right direction from the giant bowl of pasta with low-fat sauce on top and no protein to be seen. There is something nurturing about the plate, about taking the time to put your food on a plate and take care with what it looks like.
- Protein gets some love. Not nearly enough! But at least they're calling out the need for protein.
- Grains have gotten smaller. They should be gone, but it's a huge step in the right direction, as it treats them as simply a component and not the foundation of a good diet. (Still wrong, but it's easier to cut out a component than a foundation, right?)
- Dairy is on the side. Dairy causes a ton of problems for a lot of people, especially the low-fat highly-processed (cheap to produce) nonsense they recommend. But there can be a place for high-fat dairy for many people - things like butter/cream, raw whole milk, unpasteurized cheeses, and cultured high-fat, no-added-sugar yogurt. So I'm not going to be too upset it's on there, as it is on the side and you can do some creative interpretation of it.
- Grains and dairy are not a necessary part of a healthy diet. Period. They are largely harmful, especially wheat and low-fat, pasteurized dairy. But we need to be realistic, The US Department of Agriculture puts this out, and they are basically owned by the agribusiness lobby, who makes all their money off cheap grain and dairy. As long as that interest holds the power it does, there will NEVER be recommendations from the USDA that do not include grains and dairy. This sucks, but it's true.
- The actual written recommendations are extremely fat-phobic and way too pro-carbohydrate. This will ensure that people continue to get fatter and sicker, all the while thinking they're "eating healthy". But then, maybe people won't bother to read the written recommendations. We can only hope.
- Protein is not big enough. Not even close. Fruit is one of those "moderation" things, but it is the the same size as protein, which is essential! And there is no mention of healthy fat (read: not trans-fat, not industrial seed oils).
- The plate is almost all carbohydrate. Carbohydrate is 1) only one of the three macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrate), 2) the only non-essential macronutrient (we can burn ketones for fuel or make glucose from protein via gluconeogenesis), and 3) by far the most problematic in terms of widespread illness and obesity.
What do you think? (Notice I put a knife on there instead of just a fork. You need that to cut your meat.) Of course I would argue that there's not a great one-size-fits-all plan. The wedges really should be different sizes for different people, depending on their health, their body compositions, their metabolism, and their goals. But I think this is a decent starting point.