Chicagoans react to new 'My Plate' food guide

June 2, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The Agriculture Department says ''My Plate,'' its new healthy eating symbol, aims to show that nutrition doesn't have to be complicated.

"My Plate" -- a simple circle divided into quadrants that contain fruits, vegetables, protein and grains -- will replace USDA's food pyramid, which has been around in various forms since 1992.

At Treasure Island Foods on the North Side, ABC7 introduced shoppers to the new recommendations.

"I think it's very clear, very simple," said Robert Grist.

"It looks fairly easy to understand," said Jonathan Linhart.

"It's very mapped out, how much you should have and how less you should have," said Bianca Covington.

The traditional food pyramid has been replaced by a simplified plate design. Fruits and vegetables make up half the daily serving, grains and protein the rest with a small side of dairy

"We wanted it to be easier for kids and their parents to make choices that will help them lead healthier live," the first lady Michelle Obama said announcing the new program Thursday.

The new guidelines also make distinctions within food categories favoring fish over red meat, whole grains over white flour, water over sugary drinks and one percent or fat free milk over two-percent or whole. Processed foods, like frozen pizza, should be avoided.

The new plate was hailed by Common Threads, a Chicago non-profit that works with kids to improve food choices.

"It's a really simple easy approach that anyone can take home with them and practice on a regular basis, every day at every meal," said Linda O'Keefe, executive director, Common Threads.

Dr. Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, of the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, says the pyramid wasn't wrong, just confusing.

"I've been working with obese children for 30 years, and I've never understood the food pyramid. Never. Never used it because I don't understand it."

The new plate may be an improvement. But north suburban-based dietician Bonnie Minsky sees a glaring omission: healthy fats which are found in olive oil, nuts, and other cholesterol-friendly foods.

"Mediterranean diets, the diet of the healthy Okinawans - all of them have fat as a major part, in balance, of their diet but healthy fats," said Minsky.

The new guidelines recommend portion control and exercise.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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