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Report: MyPlate Icon a Sharp Contrast to What’s Actually on Our Plates

The nutritionally-balanced quadrants of the USDA’s MyPlate, the graphic interpretation of the new federal dietary guidelines that depicts a healthful daily diet, looks very different than what’s actually on the plates of most Americans, according to The NPD Group, a market research company. NPD’s food and beverage market research finds that, for the average consumer, only 2 percent of their days come close to resembling the USDA’s MyPlate.

Using NPD’s National Eating Trends (NET) research, MyPlate days were calculated based on consumers who, on the same day, achieved at least 70 percent of the daily–recommended intake for dairy, fruit, grains, proteins and vegetables. For the average consumer, 2 percent of their days (about seven days a year) come close to the USDA dietary guidelines; and when a MyPlate day is achieved, consumers are very likely to consume more than three meals a day.

“Clearly there is a need for consumers to change their eating behaviors,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst who analyzed the NET information in comparison to the MyPlate guidelines. “With more than 65 percent of adults in NPD’s nationally representative consumer panel classified as either overweight or obese, the necessity behind change could not be more apparent.”

During a recent NPD-hosted event in Washington, D.C., Dr. Robert Post, deputy director at the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, highlighted the new dietary guidelines. Among them were substituting solid fats with oils, increasing vegetable and dairy consumption and switching out more refined grains in favor of whole grains. He said that the point is that everyone should be enjoying their meals but eating less while still adhering to good nutritional guidelines.

“We know through our ongoing research that consumers are more aware of what constitutes a healthy diet, but we also know that what they say and what they do when it comes to eating are often different,” says Seifer. “Since the MyPlate program was just released last year, time will tell if it will have an effect on the way consumers eat, but it’s likely to be an uphill battle.”

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