Food challenge: Is MyPlate possible and affordable?
June 14th, 2011
11:48 AM ET

Food challenge: Is MyPlate possible and affordable?

While writing about the USDA’s new food icon, MyPlate, I wondered if anyone can eat like this consistently.

In its color-by-numbers simplicity, MyPlate is a constant reminder of how far my diet falls from the ideal.  Vegetables on my plate are like Sumatran tigers in the wild - they're verging on extinction.

“Comparing the ideal proportions of MyPlate to those of the typical American diet is like holding MyPlate up to a fun-house mirror,” Health.com wrote.

“Even if Americans hear the message that they need to eat more fruits and vegetables, for instance, MyPlate’s 50% standard may be difficult for many people to live up to."

And here's what iReporters said their ideal versions of MyPlate would look like.  The Pop Tarts and cheese puffs on photo 4 is my favorite.

Having written about a few food challenges, involving Twinkies, school lunches and unprocessed foods, I wanted to put MyPlate to a test.

Could I eat what MyPlate suggests for a week?  And can I afford it on an average American budget?

Here are the rules:

1. Eat as closely to the MyPlate icon as possible.

For the next seven days, I will eat and Tweet my meals.  The food groups will be compartmentalized in my trusty bento box.

If I can’t fill my plate with enough of one food group, I will try to make up for it in other meals during the rest of the day.

This challenge is not about weight loss. This is about eating within the MyPlate icon.

2. Spend only $61.27 the entire week.

A common complaint is that healthy foods like fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains cost too much.  This challenge would be far easier if I could walk into Whole Foods and buy prepared meals and vegetables.  But that's not possible for most Americans.

The average American household spends about $6,372 every year on food, both groceries and restaurants.

The unit per household, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics  in 2009, was 2.5 persons.  I’ve divided the yearly expenditure on food and divided by 2 persons and 52 weeks.

Addictive infographic on how Americans spend on food, sorted by cities

The challenge is to eat healthy within the budget constraints of the average American household.  So groceries will come from mainstream stores.

3. Integrate the challenge into dining out.

Another frequent complaint is that it’s hard to make healthy choices when dining at restaurants.

I plan to eat out and order foods that meet the nutritional guidelines. This is tough when restaurants in the South list macaroni and cheese as a vegetable on their menus and your greens are always bathed in fat.

I’ll be tweeting from @MadisonCNN.  Send your suggestions or questions.

If you're curious,  give it a try.  Happy eating!

soundoff (854 Responses)
  1. bob

    not hard to eat like this.

    my diet.
    half pound hamburger
    medium potato
    2 cups cereal
    8 cups milk
    can of chili
    medium apple
    2 cups cooked white rice.

    costs about $47 a week.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shelly

      Umm..you don't have a single vegetable.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:14 | Report abuse |
    • Jimmy

      Hope you're kidding Shelly.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:23 | Report abuse |
    • Rachel

      The only vegetable you have is a potato, which is super starchy and lacks important vitamins and minerals. MyPlate emphasizes making half your grains whole grains. I doubt your hamburger is set between a whole grain bun, and you are already eating white rice. I think the only good things about your "diet" is the milk and apple.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      No kidding. What's the vegetable? A potato is a starch–which I guess is a grain. Chili is a protein. 8 cups of milk seems like a lot of milk to drink in one day.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
    • Papa

      Starches are carbohydrates, not grain.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse |
    • BS

      Your diet is mostly "grain" (carbs). Rice, potato, and cereal all count as the "grains". Potatoes are not considered vegetables from a nutritional standpoint. The only things you have that fall on the fruit/veggie half are the apple and the tomatoes in the chili. That doesn't even fulfill the lower recommendations from the previous "pyramid".

      June 14, 2011 at 14:09 | Report abuse |
    • todd

      The apple, lentils in the chilli. Um, you do have medical insurance, right? You are going to need it with that diet.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse |
    • RabiaDiluvio

      There is no grain requirement for the human body. This is one reason among many that the new plate icon thingy is a total farce. It is far better that your carbs come from your fruits, nuts and green veggies than from grains and heavy starches.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse |
    • nepawoods

      Potatoes are not similar to grains, either botanically or nutritionally. That said, neither are good food.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:36 | Report abuse |
    • Alexander

      Grain requirement? You could argue that about everything on the plate (except protein). As long as you get your macro and micronutrients, you could argue that there is no requirements for any of the food groups. Grains have benefits. You just don't need to eat them as much as everything else.

      Oh, and potatoes as a vegetable? Please.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      The body does need fiber, so you get that through whole grains and veggies. Dairy is the skippable item–think about whole civilizations that never used dairy out of infancy: all of Asia.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
    • BNS

      You have $2 remaining to reach the national average expenditure. Possibly add some bourbon, at the weekend, to supplement your grain intake. (Thanks for the laugh, Bob.)

      June 14, 2011 at 16:57 | Report abuse |
  2. what

    Affordable? How about some rice, beans, canned tomatoes an apple and a glass of milk?

    The concept that poor people somehow are blocked from eating healthy (and thus have problems with obesety) is nonsense. Sure, it's harder for a poor person to go to Morton's than McDonalds but nothing prevents you from COOKING YOUR OWN FOOD.

    Just because you need protein doesn't mean it's steak or nothing. And it doesnt mean you have to eat cheap processed quick meals. You can cook the cheapest food and still be healthy – but that's the problem – you have to cook yourself.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WooHoo

      Sorry, but the canned tomatoes are out. Remember, we are suppose to be cutting out salt?

      June 14, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse |
    • lila

      I know the majority of human beings on the planet (including the poorest of the poor) eat some sort of rice and beans most days.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:32 | Report abuse |
    • Papa

      You can buy canned tomatoes with no added salt at most grocery stores.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
    • KateB

      You'd be surprised how many poor communities DO NOT have grocery stores – just small convenience-type stores that sell processed/instant food...the nearest grocery store may be miles from a person's apartment/home, and if they are elderly or have small kids getting to the store becomes very difficult. Couple that with very little money and little education on cooking healthful, tasty meals, and you have a recipe for obesity and high-blood-pressure.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:47 | Report abuse |
    • Cathy W

      Yes, affordable, and it's not nonsense. Fresh produce IS more expensive, but more importantly, it's often not even available in innercities, where places like 7-11 and Quick Mart may be the only source of food within a reasonable distance. Real grocery stores go where the money is.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:53 | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      I disagree with your statement that cooking at home is cheaper then eating out. I follow Weight Watchers which has a very similar philosophy to the new plate icon. Because I buy unprocessed foods, organic fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean proteins I often spend about $200 a week on groceries for two of us! It is expensive to eat healthy but American's need to discipline themselves to make smart choices when it comes to food. I applaud the USDA for making an icon that is easy to follow for all ages.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
    • BS

      Please don't confuse Weight Watchers with being a food snob. It doesn't cost $200/wk to follow WW.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      Opps... meant to say $100/week on groceries for two people. BTW @BS being on WW does not make me a food snob. I am holding myself accountable for poor food choices in the past and changing my outlook for the future of myself and my family.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse |
    • BioHzrd420

      Myplate is not here to address the socioeconomic difficulties in eating right, only to say "hey, your're diet should look like this". Yes, for some it's not as easy as going to the store and picking up your daily veggies, but it's a start. You don't need big sweeping changes to start eating better. Just consider what your diet consists of. It's better than them saying, to heck with it and eat as much fat as you want.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      @Sarah –

      Yea, the wife and I did/do WW and I can tell you that it's not THAT expensive. Your is so much because your paying for "Organic" – which is honestly just a waste of money. Instead of doing that, try buying "local". If you can find a farmers market (and many places have them now) you'll save a TON of money on stuff that is much better for you than that "Organic" food that was grown 1000's of miles away, picked before it was ripe and shipped to your local megamart/Whole foods store.

      HOWEVER, I do believe the author is right that eating according to the new USDA standards is out of the budget of many families. It's a very sad statement about the US when it's cheaper to go to a fast food "restaurant" and get a dinner for a family than it is to cook healthy food at home for most people.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
    • Fast food is cheaper?

      I can make pork chops w/ baked potatoes and steamed green beans for cheaper then a combo meal. I spend $4 on thin cut pork chops (about 6 thin cuts), 10lbs of potato for $3 (so about $0.30/potato), and $1 for a bag of frozen green beans. so for 2 people that is $2.80/person, throw in about $0.20 for a bit of butter and seasonings (i'm rounding up some b/c I don't go over board w/ garlic/rosemarry/thyme/black pepper). ... so that's $3 per person before taxes. so with taxes it's the same as me ordering from the $1 menu at McDs.

      June 14, 2011 at 15:06 | Report abuse |
  3. John Durst

    I don't have any problem approximating the MyPlate portions at dinner, but good luck if you get me to eat it 3 meals a day. I tend to have way more fruit than vegitables, about as much bread as they reccomend but less milk products.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Susan

      You're not alone in eating more fruits than vegetables. After all, fruits have a lot more sugar, which we are conditioned to crave. Plus, many fruits are more portable than many vegatables. I know that I have to make an effort to eat more veggies by themselves as well as integrated with a dish, such as pasta primavera, frittata, or stirfry.

      June 14, 2011 at 15:23 | Report abuse |
  4. Erin

    I know for a lot of people eating healthy is a challenge. Not only are vegetables not convenient (i.e. not always readily available, not good for eating on the go, quickly spoil, etc), but people don't always know how to cook them. People also don't favor them over starches and meats. I personally have been trying to eat healthy for a couple of years now. I'm still overweight and by no means an expert; however, I have found that it is possible to eat healthy, including fruits and vegetables and stay on a budget. When I go to the farmers market, I can get a big tub of organic spinach for $2. The grocery store sells that same tub for $6. That $2 allows me to have spinach salads all week for lunch. I also watch sales ads and watch for coupons (driscolls.com has berry coupons; Earthbound Farms will mail you coupons if you email them; Dole Pineapple puts out coupons every couple of months, etc). My husband and I eat healthy meals at home for $50/week including fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, and organic dairy products. Trust me, it can be done! Good luck with your journey!

    June 14, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rachel

      Props to you! I also think that many people forget about frozen vegetables. They are just as healthy as fresh vegetables, and an excellent way of ensuring of getting enough vegetables in the winter when some are not as readily available.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse |
    • Papa

      Frozen vegetables are not as healthy as fresh vegetables but are better than not eating vegetables at all. Also, steaming or baking retains more nutrients than boiling or frying.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:40 | Report abuse |
    • Cathy W

      Papa, actually, by the time fresh produce gets to the grocery stores and then to your table, many of the nutrients have oxidized/died/whatever, whereas frozen veggies are usually frozen very quickly after harvest, and often DO have a higher nutrient density than the fresh you get in grocery stores. On the other hand, fresh produce grown yourself and served immediately after harvesting, or purchased from local farmer's markets where travel time is minimal, IS higher in nutrients.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
    • BioHzrd420

      Don't nuke 'em either. Destroys most of the nutrient value. You get a big bang for steaming frozen veggies. (Delicious too)

      June 14, 2011 at 14:43 | Report abuse |
  5. T3chsupport

    Why do people assume that if you're eating vegetables, you must be going to Whole Foods?
    Last time I checked, all grocery stores had vegetables. WinCo even has cheap produce, and a lot of the time it's better than Safeway.

    It's only expensive if you have no idea how to shop.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amena

      I think she's saying that Whole Foods has readily portioned meals that she prefers, but is trying to eat within the average American budget. Therefore, Whole Foods would be too expensive.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:45 | Report abuse |
    • BioHzrd420

      Whole Foods is expensive for most family budgets.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
  6. Displeased

    I've already been eating by the "MyPlate" standards for several years, eating for nutritional purposes and not for comfort. I consider comfort foods things like mac & cheese, hot dogs, white bread, potato chips, anything that has no nutritional value. I stick with local, organic, and natural foods (except for the few times I splurge when eating out). Yes, it is expensive, but my health is worth it. Try eating for nutritional purposes and not for comfort, you'll feel and look a lot better.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ballson Chinn

      Finally, someone who gets it.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:32 | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      I have 5 kids. Saying 'sure it is more expensive but....' does not work for me. I have to care about price.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
    • todd

      Last I checked, a few additional vegetables, fruits, and lean meats cost a lot less than a triple bypass, even if you DO have insurance.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
    • BNS

      I think the point Kris was trying to make is that some people don't have a "choice" to make. The money is not there.

      June 14, 2011 at 18:34 | Report abuse |
    • Displeased

      But she chose to have 5 kids.

      June 14, 2011 at 19:06 | Report abuse |
    • BNS

      Might have been multiples; might really like kids.. might have been old guard Catholic.. Not all people end up with a large family because they couldn't "resist". For all we know, it could be a blended family with 2 from her previous, 2 from his previous, and 1 together or adopted. Can't hate everyone for having a larger family.

      June 14, 2011 at 22:21 | Report abuse |
  7. Anonymous

    Good luck! I personally don't really care to follow the food guidelines, as the government is constantly screwing everything else up, why should I think making half my diet fruits and vegetables is a good idea? For the record, I'm an incredibly healthy person, but I'm bloated just thinking about it....

    June 14, 2011 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shelly

      (1) Eating well is really common sense, so if you don't trust guideline then it's not about not trust the government.

      (2) For bloating try Beano.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse |
    • Rachel

      Eating fruits and vegetables helps with bloating fyi

      June 14, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
  8. Ana

    Fruit and veggies are very expensive in this country. I box of pasta is $1 and all family can eat it for dinner while an apple is almost $1 and one person can eat it for snack only.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Derek

      $1 for an apple? I get apples for$1.29/pound, and I just went and weighed a rather large one and it was 8 oz. That's still a bit expensive at $0.65 each, but nowhere near a dollar. Frozen vegetables are cheap, though. One pound bags run well under a buck and a half- sometimes I even find them on sale for a buck each.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I don't understand people, fruit and veggies are down right the cheapest food out there. I am a grocer so I understand how food is sold. Everything in food is sold by weight, an apple for instance depending on type goes for 1-2 dollars per pound, beef ranges from 3-10 dollars per pound for lower grades and upwards of 20 dollars per pound for top grades. Bananas range from 40-80 cents per pound were as pork ranges from 2-7 dollars a pound for low quality product. Grains again, also very low in cost compared to meats. And there is even a good reason for the lower cost of fruits and veggies, low cost of production, transportation, and sale. It cost very little to grow fruit, it is much easier to ship and process for stores. What costs real cost is the organic label, and that is nothing but a scam.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
    • Jeanie

      Where are you shopping, Ana? I can get 1# pasta, whole grain, at Meijer for 79 cent. The apples now, they are $1.69/lb. in our town, and 1 will easily be $1. The bulk in the 3# bags are barely worth cooking with. I get your point, even if others don't. BTW, If you do get one of those beautiful $1 apples, you can really get 2 servings out of it.. I share one with my daughter all the time. I think fruit is 1/2 C per serving.. so don't worry so much.. wash it real good, dry it, cut it and core it. A lb. of pasta is way nicely filling though.... chicken marsala with linguine, penne arrabiatta, spaghetti carbonara, pasta primavera with shrimp....

      June 14, 2011 at 18:46 | Report abuse |
  9. Joe Rioux

    The tone of this article is all wrong. "Vegetables are like Sumatran tigers." So fix that! Do you have such poor impulse control that you can't eat vegetables? If you are a grown adult and don't understand that you need to eat a variety of healthy foods, then good luck to you.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • b

      This made me laugh out loud.

      June 16, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
  10. brandon

    I'm stumped as to why you used $61.27 as your weekly budget for one person. Based on the facts cited in your article, you should have divided by 2.5 instead of by 2, which would give you $49.02 per week. Not impossible to shop for healthy items at this amount, but more difficult nonetheless.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • madisoncnn

      Hi, Brandon. You're right that dividing by 2.5 would've made it harder, but 2.5 is not a whole person. So, I divided by 2, to keep it a whole number/whole person. Thanks for your interest!

      June 14, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
    • Math Whiz

      Actually, by dividing by 2 instead of 2.5, the result is that you DON'T have a whole person, but instead a figure based on 1.25 persons. If you want to figure what whole people would spend, divide by 2.5 and then multiply by 2.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse |
  11. Jamie

    Eating healthy is actually a LOT *cheaper* than eating out or eating fast food (which is what so many Americans do). My wife and I are pretty much health nuts and make all of our own meals (a wide variety too, not the same thing everyday) using a lot of fresh produce and very little pre-packaged foods and we eat for about $250/month for the both of us. It just takes a little discipline.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • thinker

      I agree, Jamie. I spend about $50 a week at the grocery store for my husband and myself (plus mom for Sunday dinners). Add to that about $10 at the farmers' market and $15 for our weekly take-out treat, and you come up with a lot less than $61/person/week! I also love to cook and use a lot of variety in my ingredients.
      All it takes is planning: I make the week's menu in advance, then shop to it. I save time and money by not making unscheduled stops at the store. My menu always includes lots of veggies, a variety of grains, and a variety of proteins in small-ish amounts. I do all the cooking for the week on Sunday, which saves time and also lets me use my stove more efficiently.
      It does take some effort, but I figure our health – and our budget – is worth it.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
  12. Chris

    The change to a food plate can be explained very easily. It is a pathetic attempt for the First "lady" to make a name for herself. Other than that, its just a big waist of time an money to recreate a message that you need a balanced diet. If you eat nothing but meat, your going to have issues such as gout. If you eat nothing but vegetables with no protien, you have other issues and if you have no grains, you are going to have issues with the toilet. The fact that people need to be told this is about the most depressing part of the whole story! I say, eat some of everything over the course of each week (balanced as well as possible), live your life and stay off the couch with your brain cells being eaten by the TV, deal with sickness by responding appropriately, and die happy. Is that so dang hard?

    June 14, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • A "waist" of time?

      Perhaps the First Lady should devote her attention to education, which is so sorely deficient in this country, as evidenced by the poor communication skills of people who post things online.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:56 | Report abuse |
    • Cathy W

      First of all, the First Lady is recognizing that we do have a problem. Yeah, it's sad that it needs to be said, but given the state of the Standard American Diet, it does need saying, because most people don't eat this way. There's no harm in her making suggestions, especially for those that DON'T already know. We ARE free to ignore them. Aside from that, the government has been making dietary recommendations for over 100 years, and this particular initiative didn't come from Mrs. Obama.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
    • Mary J

      For a lot of adults, it's probably common sense, but a lot of young folks aren't aware of proper diet. Watch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. You'll see what I'm talking about.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:24 | Report abuse |
    • BioHzrd420

      Easier said than done as evidenced by rising obesity and all it's associated health problems. Go people watching and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that people aren't eating right or moving about.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:48 | Report abuse |
    • Jeanie

      "stay off the couch with your brain cells being eaten by the TV"
      Translation: Stay out of the swivel chair/bed/recliner with your brain cells being eaten by the pc/laptop/cellphone/IPad"

      June 14, 2011 at 18:54 | Report abuse |
  13. Progressive Viewpoint

    Sounds to me like CNN is exhibiting its bias by slamming the south and its cusine. Not all southerners eat greens and hamhocks just for your information.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Displeased

      I traveled through Louisiana once and it was nearly impossible to find a restaurant where everything wasn't deep fried. I'm serious...everything!

      June 14, 2011 at 13:41 | Report abuse |
    • Steve Rogers

      Agreed. Highway side dives non-withstanding (perhaps what you're referring to, Displeased), there is a breadth of culinary diversity available in southern cities, especially my home town of Charleston, SC.

      June 14, 2011 at 15:47 | Report abuse |
  14. Liz

    How about starting a vegetable garden? It's a great way to exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and eat healthier.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Birdman73

      Liz – while that is a noble suggestion, you need to realize that many underpriviliged familes don't have yards to grow vegatables in.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
    • Fairycharmed

      I'd be willing to be we see a return to the Canning & Victory Garden's of WWII in the next 5-10 years, as more and more people fight against imported food, high prices and the continued recession/depression. *wanders off to check lettuce in the planters*

      June 14, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse |
    • sunsohot

      container gardens work well and take almost no space – apartment dwellers love them....as for the expense – well, yes, sometimes that does get in the way, but many areas have community gardening, and even free seeds and sod. A person just needs to spend a little time looking for ways to eat right on a limited budget and it CAN be done...and stay away from "cheap" take-out!

      June 14, 2011 at 14:48 | Report abuse |
  15. whatthe

    If people put actual food items that make up a diet close to 'myplate' standards, that would be very useful. Like Bob did.

    i suspect that it would be hard to keep the salt and sugar content low in any diet. The food industry has loaded everything with salt and sugar, two white poisons. Everything from raisin bran cereal, to cheese slices, to yogurt, to lean cuisine meals, to catchup, has either too much salt or too much sugar. We are not even talking fast food restaurants.

    BTW, fruits and veggies are not that expensive.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cathy W

      As an amateur cheese-maker, I can tell you that cheese has always been high in salt, which acts as a preservative to prevent the milk solids from going rancid. Low-salt cheeses are the exception, not the norm. Other than that, I agree with you. 🙂

      June 14, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse |
    • Liutgard

      Hi Cathy! (waving my muppet arms at you!) Loves me some cheese! See you in a couple of weeks?

      Most processed foods are high in salt, sugar, and fat. I'm currently living pretty low on the food chain, and I'm certain I still get too much of all of them. The people I really feel sorry for are inner-city poor. All too often they live in a 'food desert', where there are no actual grocery stores, only convenience stores. I'm lucky that I live in the middle of Portland OR, where there's lots of groceries of all sorts, farmer's markets, and gardening opportunities. My older daughter is in Brooklyn NY, and her options are limited.

      June 15, 2011 at 08:47 | Report abuse |
  16. Wann2know

    As a public health nutritionist I find this plate, with it's seperate cup quite a coup for the dairy industry. I'm not opposed to consumption of milk. Yet it is not necessary, most adults cannot tolerate, and the vitamins/minerals can be consumed from other plants.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rhinana

      Are you kidding me? You are a nutritionist and don't think people need dairy (or dairy alternatives)? Wow scary thought that you are out there advising people about their health...

      June 14, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse |
    • BioHzrd420

      So what is cheese, sour cream, ice cream, creamer then? I may not drink milk but I sure enjoy me some cheese.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse |
    • Rach

      Rhianna, the comment above is correct. Research has shown that moving into adulthood, many adults cannot tolerate milk anymore. This is because as we are developing, we get our nutrients from our mother's milk. As we get older, we lose the lactose tolerance that we once had. It doesn't happen to everyone, but many people find that they become more lactose intolerant the older they get. The same thing happens with other mammals. How many other animals do you see drinking milk after they've reached adulthood?

      June 14, 2011 at 14:58 | Report abuse |
  17. Derek

    My biggest problem with this is that is assumes people only eat meals and do not eat in between meals- I probably eat a quarter of my calories in between as snacks. When there was a number of servings recommendation, it was possible to count these snacks into my diet, with this system its much harder to approximate how my snacks should fit in.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. taxed

    Affordable? In this country "affordable" means somebody gets the food for free and the stupid taxpayers have to earn the money to pay for it.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BioHzrd420

      Where is this free food you speak of? I've been paying for my own food like a chump for years!

      June 14, 2011 at 14:54 | Report abuse |
  19. Ballson Chinn

    Stop whinning and just do it! I'll bet you're all fat pigs.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. aubrie

    I truly understand wanting children to understand this plate.... With the child obesity rate skyrocketing.... But this plate is just a wee bit to "simple" for my taste..... Did we have to dumb down the nutrition information to get this point across??? I mean really... It looks like something from Sesame Street.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sunsohot

      if you truly think children need to understand how to eat healthy, then the simplicity of the plate should not put you in a tail spin

      June 14, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse |
    • BioHzrd420

      K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid, sound familiar?

      June 14, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
  21. Emily

    Of course it's possible to eat like this. The excuse that fruit and veggies are too expensive is ridiculous. In my family of 3 I spend $60-70/week on groceries. We eat out for dinner once a week and I eat lunch out with coworkers once a week. And I have NO problems making sure we eat a healthy balanced diet almost identical to the new plate (sometimes less grains and more veggies). If I completely removed any additional treats from the grocery list, like the occasional soda, beer or ice cream, we could save even more. Also, ~50% of my fruits/veggies are organic, and I often shop at the local farmer's market. It can be done if we weren't so lazy and full of excuses.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jamie

      Thanks Emily. I completely agree. This *myth* that eating healthy and organic is "expensive" is completely silly.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse |
    • Liutgard

      Jamie, that depends on where you live. I have no problem. But one of my daughters lives in Brooklyn, and getting quality/organic fruits and veggies is not nearly as easy as you seem to think.

      June 15, 2011 at 08:56 | Report abuse |
  22. Jason

    I'm going to have to agree with Displeased, except I am of the opinion that people should try cutting the dairy and carbs to a 1/3 of what they are in the picture above, up your proteins and add about 6 glasses of water to your diet. Doing this you could lean out just about anyone in about 6 months. Organic is a plus but not a must, but I see it as an investment in myself.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rachel

      Cutting carbs 1/3 I agree with and adding water. I do not agree with cutting dairy. I believe a glass of milk at each meal will promote bone health, especially when one gets older and the risk of osteoporosis increases.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
    • Displeased

      Rachel, there are several other sources of calcium: Spinach, beans, fish, nuts, etc.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
    • rhinana

      Displeased: dairy is NOT just about calcium, educate yourself please

      June 14, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
    • Displeased

      What is it about then? When I read the nutrition label on milk, I see you get a lot of fat, cholesterol, and calcium. You get a little carbs, sodium, and vitamin A. So if you're not drinking milk for calcium, then what are you gaining that you can't get from other sources?

      June 14, 2011 at 14:46 | Report abuse |
    • Rachel

      Research has shown that drinking milk promotes bone health because it contains other vitamins and minerals that work with calcium. If you drink skim milk, you cut out the fat and cholesterol. If it's the taste difference you don't like, try super skim milk, which has a thickener that gives skim milk the taste and consistency as 2% milk without the added calories.

      June 14, 2011 at 15:34 | Report abuse |
    • Liutgard

      Interesting how vehement people get about You Must Consume Dairy! when most of the world doesn't consume dairy products after childhood. I guess that billions of Asians haven't heard the latest bleatings from the Dairy Council?

      June 15, 2011 at 08:59 | Report abuse |
  23. Marathon Sweetheart

    what a great idea! I think I will try this. It will save money, and we will probably lose weight the HEALTHY way by eating proper portions.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Amy

    I am on the free weight loss program, myfreedomfit. For the most part, it seems to stick to these guidelines but I just use their recommended menus so I dont even have to think about what to eat. Anyhow, our family saves a lot of money because we don't eat out as much. Also, broccoli is a lot cheaper then a box of oreos!

    June 14, 2011 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Leonore H. Dvorkin

    You can get HUGE bags of plain frozen vegetables (many of them organic) at Costco for just a few dollars per bag. Frozen vegetables are often healthier than "fresh" ones that have sat out for a long time, as frozen vegetables are cleaned and packed very soon after picking. The vegetables I am talking about are packed plain, with no sauce or salt, and are wonderful. You can get great mixtures or single-vegetable packages such as peas or green beans. They stay frozen and nutritious until you are ready to use them, so there is no waste. I just pour myself out about a cup at a time, add a little water, and zap them in the microwave for about 90 seconds. (Microwaving actually preserves the most vitamins in vegetables.) Presto, I have a big serving of delicious, nutritious vegetables. Good toppings are a small amount of olive oil and a sprinkling of Italian seasoning, or maybe a bit of Parmesan cheese. I eat vegetables and fresh fruits with meals and also as snacks.
    Also, plain oatmeal makes a great, cheap, nutritious grain. That's also in giant, inexpensive boxes at Costco. One-half cup of 5-minute oatmeal can be cooked in the microwave in 1 cup of water in about 90 seconds. Add a few drops of stevia (the safest non-sugar sweetener), a sprinkle of cinnamon (it helps lower blood sugar), and a handful of mixed nuts (also at Costco for a great price), maybe some raisins or a bit of fruit, then add the milk of your choice, and you have a terrific small meal.
    It is entirely possible to eat well for not much money. You just have to know where to shop and what to buy. Also, if you don't drink sodas, don't eat junk food, don't smoke, and don't drink alcohol (or drink very lightly, as my husband does), you will have a lot more money to spend on nutritious food and be far healthier overall. It's all a matter of education and then making wise choices. Your health may not be ENTIRELY under your control, but a very large part of it is.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Luigi

      I'm with you on the oatmeal. However, Costco isn't everywhere in the U.S. and not everyone has a lot of freezer space. Buying an additional freezer doesn't work for a family in an apartment.

      June 14, 2011 at 13:47 | Report abuse |
    • madisoncnn

      Thanks for your suggestion. Frozen veggies & I are now BFF.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
  26. AGeek

    So .. the big portion that's *healthy* for us is effectively *not* subsidized. (1% or there'bouts) While the proteins and dairy are subsidized to the tune of > 60%. The USDA and the rest of the government need to get in lockstep, because the consumer is caught in between the two!

    June 14, 2011 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. NotForEveryone

    This food chart of any kind is not for everyone. What about those who have allergies to whole grains, or milk, or lactose intolerance that Lactaid, etc. can't work with? What about those who get severe stomach pain and runs from eating fruit? What about those who have severe food allergies and sensitivities? If you're sick all the time from eating foods that disagree with your system, then the food plate thing is just as unhealthy. They shouldn't set ANY guidelines. They should instead encourage people to consult their doctor and/or a nutritionist for their individual needs since everyone is different and some folks can't have all of the recommended foods. I for one would rather not eat a food than have to take a pill to avoid getting sick from the food I eat.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kmcg

      What do you think a guideline is? Of course if you have sensitivities and allergies basic guidelines might not work for you... guidelines are supposed to be generalized to a majority though, and the majority of people can follow this.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:24 | Report abuse |
  28. sane eater

    My plate has looked pretty much like "MyPlate" all my life. I eat fruit mostly at lunch and for dessert. I eat vegetables more for dinner. My kids have been eating vegetables every day since they were infants. They eat most veggies without complaint. I managed to eat this way even when I was a poor student. If I couldn't afford meat, I ate beans, peanut butter, or eggs. Frozen vegetables are not hard to cook- just throw them in the microwave. Fresh fruit may be expensive, but you can always get canned applesauce. A loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter goes a long way for not that much money. There's just no excuse for eating poorly.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. TruthandJustice

    My Diet:

    24oz Steak
    16oz Fish
    2 Cups of Broccoli
    1 Tall Glass of Milk

    June 14, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. mdub3000

    There shouldn't be any dairy.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Jenny

    I can't believe that this article makes it seem as if integrating a few fruits and vegetables into your diet is a massive challenge. We wonder why most people in this country are overweight? Well here's a perfect example of why. People don't have to go all health-nut freak status, but they can try to eat a salad once a day, or pick up a piece of fruit. Something's better than nothing. You wonder why you don't lose weight when all you eat is empty carbs? People, get it together.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. wed110197

    If you want to eat more of the bad stuff just use a much bigger plate. Problem solved.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Dean

    Nothing but fruit, vegetables, juices, water and daily glass of milk and donut.

    June 14, 2011 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Judy

    Still too many grains. People need to realise that the health authorities are giving them bad advice when they recommend carb-laden diets.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rhinana

      choosing complex grains is the way to go. If you completely cut out grains from your diet you are asking for trouble.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:21 | Report abuse |
  35. Joe in NJ

    The problem with this chart is that including a protein category is too general. Cheese and yogurt all have protein but I guess those are considered dairy. Beans are high in protein but that would be under vegetable. Protein is something you get from certain types of food. It is not a type of food such as grains or fruit. You can't go to the supermarket and walk down the protein aisle. I can't believe they were dumb enough to put out the chart like this.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kmcg

      Well protein means meat like beef, pork, poultry, & fish and nuts... makes sense to me...

      June 14, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
    • kmcg

      oh and I would put beans under protein

      June 14, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Beans are legumes, no reason to think of them as vegetables for dietary purposes.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
    • BioHzrd420

      You need them to right you out a grocery list, too.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse |
  36. Displeased

    What is everybody's love for milk? There are other sources of calcium, such as spinach, other greens, beans, fish, nuts, and seeds. You don't need milk everyday to survive.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rhinana

      eating dairy and dairy alternatives is NOT about just calcium.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      I don't get the stress on milk either. The plate should have a glass of water. Just something to think about; humans are the only species that drink milk after they are weaned off their mother's milk and they are the only species that drinks another animal's (cow's) milk. Kind of grosses me out!

      June 14, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse |
    • thinker

      @rhinana – you've mentioned this more than once, without clarification. Would you please elaborate and tell us these other reasons?

      June 14, 2011 at 15:21 | Report abuse |
    • Dolly

      Oh my GOSH! I want to come down Abe is out of town. Agghhh this is just what I wanted. PS love the last post drailng kids and love that cute little girl's hair! If I come up with something for Saturday, I'll call. I'm so wishing I just lived down the street.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:24 | Report abuse |
  37. Marc

    The thing is, no matter how we eat, no matter how hard we try to stick to a "healthy diet", the risk of cancer and disease will always be there. For as long as we continue to use cosmetics, hygienic products such as deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, etc, the human population will disappear for this very reason. I suggest watching "The Disappearing Male". As much as a good diet seems wonderful, "healthy" people die all the time, even young. They die of cancer, disease, etc. Just like anybody else who has a "horrible" diet.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Displeased

      A healthy diet (and exercise) improves your chances of beating cancer and other diseases. Sure some healthy people die, but how many obese or unhealthy old people do you see?

      June 14, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
  38. Michael

    This is not really that difficult. I feel that most people who criticize are simply stuck in bad habits and routines. I do all of the cooking for my family. We eat probably 90% our meals either at home or from home preparation (weekday lunches). While I cannot say that I conform completely to these ideals, I aim for something like this. In response to the comment that one must eat for nutrition and not comfort, I believe that this is wrong also. The trick is to cook and eat for both health and enjoyment. It does take time, thought, and effort, but it is worth it when you consider that this is the fuel you use to fuel your body every moment of your life. Even the comment about salt and sugar assumes consumption of lots of prepared foods. Lastly I will comment about the nutritionist who raises dairy concerns. I too think that this is probably more dairy than necessary, but is probably aimed at avoiding sugary sodas and juices. Overall though I think some dairy is good, particularly for women and youths, for calcium needs. The body absorbs this better than supplemental forms of calcium. In the end, this is not all that hard. Make your dinner tonight and simply visualize the same concept, that half of the volume of food should be fruit and vegetable. I think that having a salad with little or no dressing (and make your own), plus a vegetable side, and you are pretty much over what everyone seems to assume is the "hard part." Then for variety omit salad or side and switch in fruit, though for me I use fruit more with breakfast and dinner. This concept isn't that hard, but it takes time, and effort. But like all things, it will get easier, much easier, as you get more practiced at it.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. DaBears!

    It's not so hard to live like this. I bought $30 worth of food at my local grocery store and filled my freezer with frozen vegetables. Steam them up, put them in a tupperware container, and voila! I have a healthy lunch! Squash, broccoli, french cut green beans, carrots, red and green peppers, and some mashed sweet potatoes :). I really don't eat pasta or rice anymore unless I eat out. I haven't seen a drop in weight but I do feel better after I eat. I don't feel sluggish or tired after a big lunch (of veggies).

    As I heard someone once put it "You never see anyone push back a plate of broccoli saying they are too full."

    June 14, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. fit4ever

    Can we afford to eat like this? I ask : can we affordc NOT to eat like this? Look how much is spent on treating all the life-style desieases!!! C'mon, people, not being to afford a healthy life style is just another excuse!!!!!

    June 14, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Nicole

    There are fruit & vegetable co-ops popping up all over the place that help people eat better for less. Most are cheaper than the supermarket – and some even take food stamps. It IS possible to get healthy food on your plate.
    Here's a link: http://www.eatrightatlanta.com.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. kmcg

    Buy FROZEN veggies!!!! They are super cheap, easy (boil or microwave, but steam for best nutrients, you can lose a lot in water!) and they are always frozen when they are at their freshest you sometimes you can have even better nutrients in your frozen veggies than in your fresh ones!

    June 14, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • huxley

      I find fresh bulk vegetables are often the cheapest route as long as you are buying whatever is in season and look for the bargains.

      A 3 lb bag of broccoli from Costco runs you $3, and 3lbs of broccoli is a lot of food – plus I find it keeps for 3-4 weeks easily in the fridge.

      Another one of my latest discoveries – radishes. A bunch is super cheap at the super market. The root makes a great quick snack, but radish greens, those things most people usually cut off and discard, are the real discovery for me. They have a nice peppery taste and have become my favorite green leafy vegetable. They go well in salads or mixed in a stir-fry.

      June 14, 2011 at 14:30 | Report abuse |
  43. Leonore H. Dvorkin

    @Luigi: I think that most supermarkets have big bags of frozen vegetables - maybe not as large as at Costco, but not tiny. Another point is that you have NO WASTE with frozen vegetables, as they have been trimmed and cleaned already.
    We do not have a separate freezer, or even a particularly large fridge. What we do not have in our freezer is ice cream, ice (we don't use that, as we don't drink sodas), or lots of meat. That leaves more room for vegetables and the several kinds of whole grains that my husband uses to make his own super-healthy, unsweet granola with every few months. As I said, it is all a matter of choices.
    @Marc: Yes, "healthy" people can still get cancer, as I did (breast cancer and a mastectomy in 1998). The origins of lots of cases of cancer are still very mysterious. That does not mean that we should just give up and stop trying to get and stay healthier. The foods we eat and how much exercise we get are ususally well under our own control. We can most certainly control whether or not we smoke and drink.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. huxley

    I think its closer to a healthy diet than previous recommendations, but I agree that dairy and grain are still too large.

    I also believe that people should start avoiding saturated fats and dietary cholesterol, because we know that those foods are extremely unhealthy. Why eat something as part of your regular diet if you know for a fact that its unhealthy?

    Personally I think a better plate would be 1/4 green leafy vegetables, 1/4 red/yellow/orange/blue vegetables, 1/6 fruit, 1/6 grain, and 1/6 low fat proteins or non-fat dairy. Proteins should be beans often, with occasional fish, white meat poultry, or non-fat cheeses. Avoid red meats and full fat cheeses.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Megan

    I think people are full of excuses. My husband and I eat all organic, healthy foods for $40 per week. We both work full time and have family obligations, but manage to find the time to cook whole foods from scratch. Your health is worth the effort!!

    June 14, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Dennis

    From the Daily Dose blog ...William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.

    USDA replaces the symbol - but not the advice
    > The USDA "food pyramid" is finally being torn down - not because of
    > the horrible advice it contained, but because it was a bit "too
    > confusing."
    > So they've traded in a triangle for a circle: a multicolored dinner
    > plate with a glass of milk off to the side.
    > Cost to you: Just $2 million, a bargain when you consider how that
    > fee includes... well... a multicolored dinner plate with a glass of
    > milk off to the side.
    > The USDA unveiled its first food pyramid in 1992, and then replaced
    > it with MyPyramid just a few years ago. The latest version had a
    > little man running up the side, presumably to collect the prize of
    > "fats, oils and sweets" (yes, the three were lumped together) locked
    > in the top.
    > Now the little man is gone, and it's unclear what killed him. I
    > suppose it could have been all that running up the pyramid... but
    > maybe he binged on those sweets and died of diabetes and heart
    > disease.
    > RIP, pyramid man. We hardly knew you.
    > The USDA, on the other hand, we know only too well. This agency's bad
    > advice, carefully negotiated with help from Big Food's big-money
    > lobbyists, has turned us into the fattest, sickest, weakest people on
    > the planet.
    > But that advice won't change - just the symbol, as the new dinner
    > plate will be loaded with the same crapola that caused the pyramid to
    > topple over: vegetables and sack after sack of grains.
    > Nothing on earth leads to obesity quite like a grain-based diet -
    > and if you need any proof of that, just take a tour of a factory farm.
    > The animals in those hellholes are given the same foods the feds want
    > you to eat - grains and soy - to fatten them up as fast as possible.
    > Throw in some antibiotics, and you've got a giant cow... or a giant
    > human. And does it even matter which is which anymore?
    > We are what we eat - and if we eat cow feed, we'll turn into cows,
    > waiting for our own demise in the not-too-distant future.
    > Moo.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LaFonda

      Well, Dennis, the only way to stop the cycle described in your post is to boycott food.

      All kidding aside, I think you are correct in your assessment of the USDA and as my former governor and USDA chairperson Vilsak is entrenched in the lobbying cycle.

      Follow the money. Money is always the answer.....but not necessarily the best one.

      June 14, 2011 at 16:07 | Report abuse |
  47. vicki

    I don't understand how people can say they can't afford to eat healthy. Fruits and vegetables are the cheapest things out there. Just don't buy your groceries at 7/11. In fact, avoid all the major supermarket chains completely and go to local ethnic markets. Your local Italian market or Chinese market have produce that is cheap and usually better quality than the supermarkets. Farmer's markets are also a good option. People who say they can't eat healthy because they can't afford it are just using that as an excuse because they would rather get a $0.99 taco at Taco Bell.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Liutgard

      Vicki, I don't know where you live, but there are many people whose only accessible food store is a convenience store- particularly in the inner cities. You can drive for miles without coming across a regular grocery store. And if you don't have transportation that gets you out of the area, you're stuck. And you're very unlikely to find a farmer's market in that sort of neighborhood.

      I think too many of us live in our comfy suburban neighborhoods and forget that not everyone lives the same way.

      June 15, 2011 at 09:12 | Report abuse |
  48. Justin

    I simply don't buy the whole "veggies are too expensive to buy" argument. I can buy a large bag of frozen vegetables for a couple of dollars. Sometimes I can even get them for UNDER $1. It should be noted that frozen vegetables are generally healthier than canned (and lack many of the nasty chemicals canned veggies and fruits absorb) and are about as equally nutritious as fresh vegetables. The reason being is that fresh produce is picked before being ripe, which gives the produce less time to develop a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Frozen vegetables are picked at peak ripeness.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alexander

      I'm glad someone made that point! Frozen vegetables are just as good (if not better) than the fresh! However, there is a perception toward inadequate nutritive value in the public... or maybe we are just finding a new way to avoid eating our veggies?

      June 14, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse |
  49. vnunez

    Only spend $61 a week? thats amazing seriously. I would be eating like a king! I only spend $10 to $20 a week on groceries and many times my food carries over the next week. and i am not eating garbage mind you. fresh veggies and fruits. albiet its not fancy organic stuff but hey i am recent college grad with a crap job. and i did lose 14lbs so far. i would accept this food challenge but i think i would win already. AWWWWW YEEAAAH.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. komal

    most indian family eat like this ,my plate got inspired by Indian traditional food serving it's called Thali !

    and if you talk about affordability then it is possible, to make your plate economically you should use seasonal fruits and vegetable.

    June 14, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
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