HEALTHY EATING: From Pyramids to Plates

By Jeffrey I. Mechanick, MD, FACP, FACE, FACN, ECNU

The United States Department of Agriculture has just released the newest version of healthy eating recommendations for Americans. Instead of the original Food Pyramid, or the more recent MyPyramid, we now have MyPlate.

Why do we need a new way to learn about healthy eating? Maybe, it’s because the old ways were not working well. Obesity, diabetes, and metabolic diseases are still very common and are serious health risks. Scientific studies in nutrition have been very clear: plants are good for you. This means lots of fruits and vegetables. But saturated fats, sugary foods, salty foods, and excess calories are not good for you. This means fewer fast foods, processed foods, and sweets.

The basics of MyPlate are very easy and promise to help us all eat well to become healthier:

  • Fill up at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, such as sliced apple, steamed broccoli, beans, and salad;
  • At least half of the grains should be whole grains, such as wild or brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa [KEEN- wah], and even popcorn (but you don’t have to add butter and salt);
  • Meats are fine but should be lean and fill up less than a quarter of the plate
  • The fat on red meats and even poultry should be trimmed off
  • Fish is very good for you and the oil in fish can even be very good for you;
  • Dairy products can be healthy but they should be low-fat or nonfat, such as low-fat or nonfat milk, cottage cheese, or yogurt.

Perhaps the most important message of MyPlate is that healthy food is to be enjoyed and even shared with family, friends, and others as part of everyday human interactions. However, portion sizes should be reduced to avoid overeating. Beverages should not be sugary; simple water is always a great choice. Everyone should learn how to read Nutrition Facts labels on food packaging so that healthy choices are easier and putting your plate together can lead to healthy living. Also, remember that plenty of physical activity and enough sleep at night leads to a healthy lifestyle. AACE supports MyPlate and strategies to improve eating patterns.

For more information about MyPlate, visit

Dr. Jeffrey I. Mechanick is Clinical Professor of Medicine and Director of Metabolic Support in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Disease, Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He is Secretary and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and Chairs the AACE Publication Committee. Dr. Mechanick co-edited Nutritional Strategies for the Diabetic and Prediabetic Patient, The Complete Guide to Lifelong Nutrition, and Thyroid Cancer: From Emergent Biotechnology to Clinical Practice Guidelines to be published in 2011. Dr. Mechanick is in private practice in endocrinology and metabolic support in New York City.