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  • Denise Scott

MyPlate Explained

Many of you are likely familiar with the food pyramid. This was first developed in 1992 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The initial food pyramid contained 6 food groups on 4 levels. This original food pyramid was revised in 2005 as new knowledge regarding nutrition was learned.

The 6 food groups were:

  • fats, oil, sweets

  • milk, yogurt, cheese

  • meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts

  • fruit

  • vegetables

  • grains - bread, cereal, rice, pasta

The old pyramid looked something like this:

The six food categories and four levels of the food pyramid.

Six years later, in 2011, the food pyramid was replaced altogether with a subdivided plate in different colors and a cup, the USDA’s MyPlate. MyPlate gives a visual of servings on a dinner plate. It is the current nutrition guide based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

MyPlate depiction from the USDA with a color-coded plate representing 4 food categories - fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein, and a cup representing dairy.

My plate presents a visual on how much of 4 food categories - fruit, vegetables, grains, and protein - to serve at a meal. Half of the plate is filled with fruit and vegetables, the other half with grains and protein in roughly the following amounts:

  • Vegetables 30%

  • Grains 30%

  • Fruit 20%

  • Protein 20%

MyPlate is simpler and easier to use, especially as a reminder to fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables.

The color coding is as follows:

Green - vegetables

Red - fruit

Orange - grains

Purple - protein foods

Blue (cup) - dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)

Their website,, has a great interactive site. It will even calculate a MyPlate plan based on an individual’s age, height, weight, and activity level. The website gives specific guidelines for the amount of each food category based on a child’s age. It is a terrific learning tool.

Additional messages that MyPlate emphasizes are:

  • Focus on whole fruits

  • Vary your veggies

  • Make half your grains whole grains

  • Vary your proteins to include all categories - meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and plant-based proteins

  • Use low-fat and fat-free dairy products (after age 2)

  • Limit added sugar, saturated fats, and sodium

  • Choose one or two categories to start with to make healthier food choices

Another way to look at the food pyramid with the reminder that fruit, vegetables, and grains should fill the bulk of what we eat each day.

The plate should reflect an entire day’s worth of eating; the goal is to achieve the depiction for each meal. Ultimately, a meal should be filled with half fruit and vegetables.

Remember that MyPlate is not just for kids but for all ages. Remember, too, that parents serve as role models for their children’s eating habits.

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