Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s icon and its recently released dietary guidelines ask Americans to limit their intake of sweeteners and fat- and cholesterol-heavy products, including meat and dairy, and to eat more fruits and vegetables. But more than 60 percent of agricultural subsidies in recent history have directly and indirectly supported meat and dairy production. Less than 1 percent have gone to fruits and vegetables.
“The USDA's new plate icon couldn't be more at odds with federal food subsidies,” says PCRM staff nutritionist Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D. “The plate icon advises Americans to limit high-fat products like meat and cheese, but the federal government is subsidizing these very products with billions of tax dollars and giving almost no support to fruits and vegetables. Congress has to reform the Farm Bill to support healthy diets.”
The protein portion of the USDA's MyPlate is unnecessary, because beans, whole grains, and vegetables are loaded with it. And MyPlate reserves a special place for dairy products, which are packed with fat and cholesterol and may increase the risk of health problems ranging from asthma to some types of cancer. There are many more healthful sources of calcium.
More than 60 percent of the deaths in the United States are caused by heart disease, cancer, and other diet-related diseases. Approximately 68 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. In 2008, the direct medical costs associated with obesity added up to $147 billion.
PCRM dietitians have developed a food guide, the Power Plate, which is a simple, colorful graphic depicting a plate divided into four food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. There are no confusing portion sizes and food hierarchies to follow; the Power Plate simply asks people to eat a variety of all four food groups each day.
Since the USDA’s first Food Pyramid was introduced nearly two decades ago, obesity and diabetes have become commonplace. About 27 percent of young adults are now too overweight to qualify for military service, and an estimated one in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes.