New USDA diet recommendations: My Food Plate

by Catherine Haug, August 26, 2011

USDA: My Food Plate

(icon, above, from

In June of this year, the USDA replaced its food pyramid with “My Food Plate” in attempt to make it easier to understand how much of each of 5 food categories to eat: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Protein, and Dairy.

USDA recommendations, and Cat’s comments follow:

USDA Recommendations:


Balancing Calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Foods to Reduce

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals — and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Specific Reccomendations

  • Make at least half of your grains whole.
  • Vary your veggies [go for different colors and types].
  • Focus on fruits.
  • Get your Calcium-rich foods from dairy.
  • Go lean with protein [avoid animal fat].

To learn more about the individual food groups represented, click on:

Cat’s Comments

As you might imagine, I have a few issues with these recommendations, but I must admit that illustrating the recommendations like a dinner plate is a good idea.

Differing needs

Not everyone’s metabolism is the same, so each individual must have different dietary needs. For example, there are those whose cells prefer to metabolize carbohydrates (Carb-types), and others whose cells prefer to metabolize fats and protein for energy (Protein types). Are you a Carb, Protein or Mixed type? Take Mercola’s free, online quiz to find out: (1).

My ancestors were the Sami people of northern Norway, Sweden and Finland, whose primary diet was caribou. They thrived on an animal diet rich in protein and fat, and lower in carbs. Assuming my metabolism is similar to that of my ancestors, my plate would have:

  • A much larger portion of the plate as fat-rich animal foods,
  • Much smaller portions of fruits, veggies and grain,
  • And my dairy would be full-fat dairy including not just milk, but also cultured dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and butter.

Thus I don’t think it is possible to come up with ‘one’ recommendation that is good for ‘all’. That said, there are some other issues with the recommendations to be considered.

Other issues

Grains: As we learned at the Sourdough Gathering, grains are far more nutritious when they are fermented, and were never meant to be eaten without fermentation. See my post: The Problem with Unfermented Grains for more. If you don’t ferment your whole grain, you’d be better off consuming smaller quantities of white-flour products (because of toxic substances in unfermented whole grain).

There is a perception that dietary fiber must come from grains, whose dominant fiber is insoluble fiber, which helps bulk the food in the bowel for faster transit time. Fruits, vegetables and some seeds have higher amounts of soluble fiber, which provide different health benefits than insoluble fiber, including supporting our rich probioitic colonies that reside in our gut – our first line of immune defense.

The new ‘My Plate” calls for fewer grains than the pyramid it replaced, but based on the above, I don’t think it went far enough: I don’t believe any of us need as much grain as nearly 1/3 of the dinner plate implies.

Dairy: Recent studies have shown that full-fat dairy is more healthful than low- and no-fat dairy. See my post Dairy Fat: Healthful or Not? for more on this.

Furthermore, the USDA supports the notion that only pasteurized milk is healthful, despite overwhelming evidence that pasteurization degrades the nutritional quality of milk, especially altering casein in milk to bind calcium so that it cannot be absorbed. Pasteurized milk does not provide absorbable calcium.

The USDA ignores substantial evidence that raw milk from cows or goats ranging in pasture has less chance of contamination by harmful bacteria (because the good bugs naturally present in raw milk do not allow bad bugs to share their space).

If you cannot get raw milk, avoid commercial ‘ultra-pasteurized’ milk in favor of locally produced ‘pasteurized’ milk, because the latter is less damaging. And consume most of your dairy as cultured products (yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, and cheese).

Dietary fat: Over the last 50 years, fats have been demonized under the false belief that ALL fatty foods cause clogged arteries, heart disease, and obesity. The USDA totally ignores evidence that only certain fats, specifically trans fats and rancid fats, have been implicated in these problems.

For protein types like me, they are also a chief and concentrated source of energy for cells. Some fats, such as those in dairy and coconut milk, actually boost metabolism, have antimicrobial properties, and support the detox function of the liver.

All saturated fats are building-blocks for, and help to stabilize the cell membranes. Many are also building-blocks for various hormones and hormone-like substances essential for health, and “act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K,” (2) and facilitate absorption of minerals found in green leafy veggies, fermented grains and meats.

Most people need MORE Omega-3 fats (from fish, seafood and flax seeds) and LESS Omega-6 fats (from corn, canola, and safflower ).

Convenience foods: As the USDA recommendations intimate: READ LABELS. But not just for sodium. Also avoid foods with added preservatives, artificial flavors and such. See my post: Reading Food Labels for more.

But even better: prepare your own meals and convenience foods in your own kitchen, starting with fresh ingredients. You can also make your own convenience foods:

  • Make your own bone-broths from chicken, fish or beef bones, and store them in your freezer.
  • Make your own tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes to store in the freezer, or can your own in glass jars (the steel cans of commercial tomato products are lined with BPA-containing epoxies, which can leach toxins into your foods).
  • Preserve fresh fruits and veggies by lacto-fermentation, rather than canning (see Gathering Summary: Lacto-Fermentation for more).
  • Prepare larger quantities of soups & casseroles from fresh ingredients, then freeze extra as individual servings for later use.

General recommendations:

  • Buy fresh meats from local farms/ranchers who raise and finish their livestock in pasture.
  • Buy eggs from local farms who raise their chickens with abundant access to outdoors.
  • Shop local farmers markets, and visit local farm stands for the freshest of fruits and veggies. And support your local grocer who carries locally grown produce.

References and for More Information

  2. Mercola on the new My Food Plate
  3. The EssentiaList: Gathering Summary – Sourdough, a Panel Presentation, May 18, 2011
  4. The EssentiaList: The Problem with Unfermented Grains
  5. The EssentiaList: Dairy Fat: Healthful or Not?
  6. The EssentiaList: Reading Food Labels

2 Responses to “New USDA diet recommendations: My Food Plate”

  1. neha kumar says:

    why they are severing unhealthy food for kids?

  2. Catherine says:

    I couldn’t agree more, tho I’m not sure who you mean by “they.”
    I believe parents, child care-givers, preschools and schools should serve healthful foods to children. but the problem is, there is not universal agreement on what is healthful and what is not. For example,
    – a huge segment of the population believes animal foods are unhealthful, while others believe animal protein is important in the diet.
    – Some people believe a low-fat diet is important; others believe that a moderate or even high fat diet is important.
    – Some believe a high carb diet is important, some recommend avoiding most carbs, while others believe we should avoid only grain-based carbs.
    – Many advocate that only pasteurized milk is safe, while others believe pasteurization destroys much of the nutritional value of foods.

    And so on…. What do you believe is “unhealthy food for kids?”