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America Abandons Food Pyramid, Copies Other Countries' Plates

The food pyramid is no more. Today, Michelle Obama helped the U.S. Department of Agriculture announce the abandonment of the old food pyramid and the adoption a new food guide: “My Plate.” The new image shows a split plate with slices for fruits, grains, vegetables and proteins, and a cup on the side representing dairy. “My Plate” de-emphasizes carbs and dairy, but also reminds people of the fun vegetables they may have forgotten, including “mustard greens, acorn squash, or bok choy.” Considering America’s embarrassing obesity rate in comparison to other countries, how do these new dietary recommendations compare to others around the world?

It appears we cribbed “My Plate” from a few other countries. According to a study by James Painter and Jee-Hyun Rah of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign entitled “Comparison of international food guide pictorial representations,” Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Mexico, Portugal and Sweden already had plate-like food guides. (China, the Philippines, Korea and Puerto Rico also had pyramid-like representations, while Canada’s food guide can only be described as a rainbow.) Even though the countries differed in regards to available ingredients and ethnic cuisines, the researchers found that all the food guides they studied included a “core recommendation for individuals to consume large amounts of grains, vegetables, and fruits with moderate intake of meat, milk and dairy products.” And although none of the countries recommended a high protein diet, the researchers note the “prevalence of the high protein diet in the American culture.” When it comes to the national obesity rate, it seems the shape of our food guide is less important than our inability to follow internationally-accepted diets.