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Food pyramid replaced by 'healthy plate' model

WASHINGTON--The U.S. government on Thursday ditched its two-decade old “pyramid” model for healthy eating and introduced a new plate symbol half-filled with fruits and vegetables to urge better eating habits.

The colorful design, called MyPlate, was unveiled by First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The plate icon is sectioned into four parts, with fruits and vegetables making up one-half and grains and proteins filling the other half. A dairy drink is included alongside.

The graphic replaces the food pyramid, released in 1992, which showed that fats and oils were located at the upper tip and should be used sparingly, while whole grains made up the base of the diet with six to 11 servings daily.

The pyramid design was modified in 2005 to include slices of color and a figure climbing stairs to suggest the importance of exercise, but critics maintained it was too hard for the general public to understand.

A total of 26.7 percent of the U.S. population is obese, and no single state has been able to meet the 15 percent obesity limit set by the U.S. government, according to 2009 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A White House task force found last year that close to one-third of children in America are overweight or obese, and obesity rates among youths have tripled since 1980.

Obama said the MyPlate icon will be useful in the fight against childhood obesity, but would not be limited to that age group.

Early reactions to the new symbol, which will be posted in doctors' offices, schools and on nutritional websites, were largely positive.

“U.S. Department of Agriculture's new healthy eating graphic is a huge improvement over the inscrutable food pyramid,” said the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“It likely will shock most people into recognizing that they need to eat a heck of a lot more vegetables and fruits. Most people are eating about a quarter of a plate of fruits or vegetables, not a half a plate as recommended.”

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 Food pyramid replaced by 'healthy plate' model 
A display helps to explain a new food icon during an event on Thursday, June 2, at the U.S. Agriculture Department in Washington, D.C. The Agriculture Department unveiled the new food icon as a replacement for the food pyramid to help people to make healthier food choices. (AP)

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