Category: MyPlate Guidelines

On Monday my three-week stent of following USDA MyPlate Guidelines begins. I’ve taken my starting weight and measurements, and my super-duper-firefightin’ fiance was kind enough to take my blood pressure. I’ve found a game plan, and I survived my first grocery shopping trip. It feels like I’m getting ready to run a marathon…does starting a new diet always feel like this?

The MyPlate website recommends that someone of my gender/age/activity level follow a 2,000 calorie per day diet to maintain weight, so that I shall do. That is slightly over the 1700-1900 calories per day I calculated using a couple of more in-depth standardized calculations. You can use these calculations to figure out your estimated needs here or here. In theory, I could gain up to three pounds following this 2,000 calorie plan for three weeks if I don’t change my activity level. Time will tell!

MyPlate sets out the following guidelines for those on a 2,000-calorie diet:

My Food RecommendationsThey have also been kind enough to provide a 1-week 2,000 calorie meal plan (check it out on the Meal Plans page). I’m not particularly trying to reinvent the wheel here, so I am going to use it. First thing I noticed as I made my shopping list was that this meal plan was not exactly designed for a single person. Seriously…one whole wheat English muffin, one serving of quinoa, and three ounces of chicken all week? Not exactly using up a whole package of anything here. So I quickly decided on the single girl’s saving grace. It’s not chocolate, it’s not wine, it’s – are you listening? – BULK-BIN FOODS. I bought exactly as much flour, yeast, rigatoni, cereal, beans, and pancake mix as I needed and not an ounce more.

Groceries smallAll that? $38. Not bad, eh?




MyPlate Guidelines

Okay, so in order to evaluate the guidelines, I wanted to talk about where they came from. So far I have mentioned that the USDA is in charge of making the guidelines, but that’s about it. They are not, in fact, dropped from the sky in a little bundle by the nutrition stork.

  1. Every 5 years the USDA accepts public nominations for members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory committee (DGAC). They must be published, well-known researchers in the fields of nutrition or public health.
  2. The USDA and Department of Health and Human Services choose the members (who are, notably, unpaid for their participation). For the 2010 DGAC there were 13.
  3. Committees, subcommittees, etc. collaborate over the span of twenty months of reviewing research to answer specific scientific questions, all of which are available here, if you’re willing to dig through it.
  4. Conclusion statements, summaries, monstrous final report, and (TA-DA!) the Dietary Guidelines. The guidelines are used to advise all kinds of food-based programs including school lunches, inmate meals, WIC programs, and long-term care menus.

Critics of the guidelines like the Harvard School of Public Health and the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) feel that since the process is overseen by the USDA (who is responsible for promoting American agriculture), the recommendations are biased in favor of promoting foods produced by agricultural titans (think dairy, grain, and beef). Because of this bias, the PCRM actually sued the federal government for only vaguely addressing foods to decrease in your diet by using a blanket term like “solid fats and added sugars” as opposed to listing the foods that contain them (meat, dairy, and junk food). The lawsuit also prompted the switch from MyPyramid to MyPlate that I mentioned a couple of days ago. This is the second time that PCRM has successfully sued the government over sketchy matters regarding the Dietary Guidelines and agribusiness conflicts-of-interest.

Harvard School of Health was so disappointed by the guidelines that they made their own version of the pyramid and plate, specifically mentioning foods high in saturated fats and added sugar as foods to limit.

I am now (slowly) working my way through the barrage of research cited by the 2010 DGAC as the basis for their recommendations – I’ll keep you posted. If I don’t write in the next three days, send someone in to check on me. Bring snacks.

P.S. The second meeting for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee wrapped up yesterday. They accept public comments/questions/concerns/rants about the process here.

MyPlate Guidelines

Before I move on to diets designed for weight loss or managing chronic disease, I’m going to start with the basics: USDA recommendations for healthy Americans. These recommendations were formerly represented by the MyPyramid graphic.



The pyramid changed design a few times over the course of its lifetime. As of 2011, however, the USDA exchanged the pyramid for a more user-friendly graphic, MyPlate:

This plate model is designed to help keep portion sizes under control and encourage consumption of all five of the token USDA food groups. Personally, I think that the MyPlate graphic is easier than MyPyramid to translate into actual daily habits because it is simple to visually check when you fill your plate. The plate is accompanied by the following taglines from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines:

  • Make half your grains whole
  • Vary your protein choices
  • Switch to skim or 1% milk
  • Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Enjoy your food, but eat less

So there you have it – the USDA Dietary Guidelines 2010. In the upcoming month, I will be reviewing the arguments for and against these recommendations, and (surprise, surprise) there are plenty. I mean, they’re written by the government…so obviously not everybody agrees. Even Harvard University’s School of Public Health shared their disapproval in this article. There’s plenty of fodder for the blogging…stay tuned!

MyPlate Guidelines