MY PLATE Could Make You FAT!

by Brooke on June 7, 2011

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The USDA just unveiled the new My Plate icon aimed at helping Americans make healthier choices one plate at a time.  This model is suppose to encourage Americans to follow these seven guidelines:

1) Enjoy your food, but eat less.

2)  Avoid oversized portions.

3)  Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

4)  Make at least half your grains whole grains.

5)  Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

6)  Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals and choose the foods with lower numbers.

7) Drink water instead of sugary drinks.          

These are all great messages, but this model can easily get misinterpreted by Americans.  Without eduction this My Plate model may still lead to poor eating choices.   To demonstrate how this model can be messed up,  I have laid out five meals.  Each meal has two mistakes.  If you leave a comment trying to correctly identify the 2 mistakes in each picture your name will be entered in a drawing for a FREE $10 Starbucks gift card.  Drawing will be held at 5 PM on June 13th. 

I wanted to show you these common errors, in hopes that YOU won’t make them!

Meal 1: 1 cup mixed berries, 1 cup low-fat chocolate milk, 2 scrambled eggs with chopped red peppers and 1 oz. of low-fat cheddar cheese, and 3 slices of whole wheat bread

Meal 2: 1 small apple, 1 2/3 cups french fries, 4 oz. grilled chicken, 1 cup whole wheat  couscous, and 1 cup chocolate ice cream

Meal 3:  1 1/3 cups steamed green beans, 6 oz fried chicken, 1 cup pasta salad, 1 small banana, and 1 cup low-fat yogurt


Meal 4: 2 cups high fiber cereal, 1 cup 1% milk, and a 16 oz. glass of apple juice 

Meal 5: glass of water, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1 1/2 cups carrots, 2 slice of whole wheat bread with 2 Tbs. of peanut butter, and a tumbler of skim milk

Don’t try this at home…without RD supervision 😉 

Next, week I will show you how to properly use the My Plate model and explain what mistakes were made in each meal !

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Doug June 7, 2011 at 11:13 am


Aaaahhhh…the old “are french fries a vegetable” debate.

A classic nutritional debate held amongst celebrity chefs & public school cafeteria ladies.

I agree with you that the Choose My Plate model “can easily get misinterpreted by Americans”. And if it can be misinterpreted….it will…by mistake and on purpose.

For example, I had a new client this week try to convince me that she eats lots of protein because she eats lots of cheddar cheese. I spent 10 minutes trying to explain how a grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread wasn’t helping her with her weight loss goals.


The new Plate isn’t perfect, but it is better than that darn pyramid.

Looking forward to tomorrows post


Brooke June 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Hi Doug, Thanks for stopping by my blog! I am letting readers post comments until next Monday and then I will randomly choose a winner for my Tuesday blog post :)


Teri June 10, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Hi Brooke!
Ok, I’m in trouble. I was reading Doug’s post and I’m worried. Grilled cheese? That’s a protein and a starch, (or technically two starches I guess.) Is that the problem. (Now you know why I’m struggling with this weight loss!)


Brooke June 13, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Haha…don’t stress Teri! This is just a learning experience! I won’t fail you 😉


Dagny June 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I’ll take a stab at it! I don’t know much about this stuff….

#1 Does the chocolate milk have sugar in it? Three slices of bread is too much. Were the eggs scrambled in butter?

#2 No vegetable here! Ice cream? Not the right dairy choice?

#3 Chicken that’s FRIED! Probably no whole grain in that pasta. Portions are wrong, have more green beans?

#4 2 cups of cereal is a LOT. Probably a lot of sugar in that big glass of apple juice. Throw a piece of REAL fruit in there. Reduce the cereal portion, add a hard boiled egg.

#5 Just seems all out of balance here. Is that Jif or peanuts you got fresh ground at Whole Foods? I’m wondering if you have a complete protein here. Dried fruit will have a lot of concentrated sugars, no? Carrots as the primary vegetable? How about something green instead.

OK that’s my shot!!!


Brooke June 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Thanks for taking a shot Dagny! Not bad guesses at all :)


Kelly June 7, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Great idea Brooke!
I won’t help any posters below me cheat with my answers :)


Brooke June 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Haha! It is a random draw, but you would most definately get them right!


Lauren June 7, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Brilliant, love this as people will misinterpret and bastardize a decent message. It leaves too much room for straying. I blogged My Plate too, a waste of $ that could go toward real education if you ask me. Loved this.


Brooke June 8, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Thanks so much Lauren :) I know right….I couldn’t believe what My Plate cost either!!!


Deb June 7, 2011 at 9:55 pm

I’ll give it a try.
#1. Chocolate milk more sugar calories than plain low fat + too much bread. Glad they cut down to 3 slices though.
#2. Potatoes as primary veggie + ice cream.
#3. Fried chicken and 6 oz??? Banana should be 1/2 for proper portion.
#4. Too much cereal and that juice seriously it’s just concentrated sugar with no fiber.
#5. Milk portion too big and fat content?? Rest of meal is too high in carb/protein ratio with the cranberries, carrots and bread. Carrot portion is too big as well.
Wow hope you calculate the calories with the update on this.


Brooke June 8, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Thanks for guessing Deb!


Mary June 8, 2011 at 12:47 am

These meals honestly don’t look that bad, and are still a vast improvement on the average American diet.

I went and plugged all these meals into a nutrition calculating software suite (thank you for providing measurements for all the components! That was most awesome!) day by day and what I saw surprised me. Some of the numbers are below.
Calorie breakdown:
Meal 1 – 677
Meal 2 – 979
Meal 3 – 956
Meal 4 – 545
Meal 5 – 704

I used the “average white american male” for anthropometrics: average height (5’10), approximately 50th percentile weight (180 pounds), in his mid-40s, low-active lifestyle, with the goal to maintain current weight.

Averaging all five meals together – as if they were five dinners this man ate in a row resulted in these stats:
Average Recommendation Percent
Calories 772.48 , 2702.59 29 %
Calories from Fat 212.14 756.73 28 %
Calories from SatFat 55.62 243.23 23 %
Protein (g) 38.15 65.32 58 %
Carbohydrates (g) 119.65 371.61 32 %
Sugar (g) 53.36
Dietary Fiber (g) 20.69 37.84 55 %
Soluble Fiber (g) 0.99
InSoluble Fiber (g) 2.98
Fat (g) 23.57 84.08 28 %
Saturated Fat (g) 6.18 27.03 23 %
Trans Fat (g) 1.33
Mono Fat (g) 6.94 30.03 23 %
Poly Fat (g) 3.92 27.03 15 %
Cholesterol (mg) 148.10 300.00 49 %

Vitamin A – RAE (mcg) 466.18 900.00 52 %
Vitamin B1 – Thiamin (mg) 0.55 1.20 46 %
Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin (mg) 0.96 1.30 73 %
Vitamin B3 – Niacin (mg) 10.25 16.00 64 %
Vitamin B6 (mg) 0.85 1.30 65 %
Vitamin B12 (mcg) 2.52 2.40 105 %
Vitamin C (mg) 25.95 90.00 29 %
Vitamin D – mcg (mcg) 2.50 5.00 50 %
Vitamin E – Alpha 1.45 15.00 10 %
Folate (mcg) 156.74 400.00 39 %
Calcium (mg) 489.63 1,000.00 49 %
Iron (mg) 6.94 8.00 87 %
Magnesium (mg) 122.80 420.00 29 %
Phosphorus (mg) 609.80 700.00 87 %
Potassium (mg) 1,118.75 4,700.00 24 %
Sodium (mg) 1,122.75 1,500.00 75 %
Zinc (mg) 5.44 11.00 49 %

Each meal was entered in the software as if it was the only meal eaten (out of three meals per day).
As you can see, the average calories, carbs and fat numbers are hovering right around the 30% mark, this tells me that a my “typical middle aged American” can easily eat three meals like these every day and still lose weight because three meals like these would only add up to 87% of the calories needed for maintenance.

Yes the protein distribution is well above 30% but the numbers are actually pretty in-tune with current American consumption. In this case the the average was about 38 grams of protein per meal, while the average adult protein consumption is roughly triple that at 91 ± 22 g/d (

What is even more impressive is that pretty much all the micronutrients are well above the 30% mark – this means that three meals like these every day would supply over 100% of most of the essential micronutrients, with the one exception of the ever-elusive vitamin E.

Nutrition does not work one plate at a time, deficiencies or excesses need to be consistent over long periods to create health problems.

What I am trying to say, is that despite the “mistakes” that were intended to unbalance each of these meals, on the whole, when they are combined and averaged together the result is still actually PRETTY GOOD!

In the bigger scheme of things it seems like The Plate produced a pretty healthy result despite your (very commendable) effort to show how it can be messed up. This little experiment tells me that The Plate is actually pretty fool-proof, if a trained professional couldn’t even skrew it up on purpose :)
Keep up the good work, great stuff!



Brooke June 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Wow Mary!!! You really went above and beyond! I am mainly just looking for two mistakes in each group that may lead to a weight gain, just by looking at the pictures. Like which “one of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong”…very Sesame Street style haha! This comment definately makes it into the drawing though :)

It only takes 500 extra calories a day for a week to lead to a one pound weight gain. If the portion sizes are not on target that is a mistake, so this plate is not fool-proof!


Natalia rivera lausell June 8, 2011 at 1:15 am

Well let’s see i believe in the
1: has to much carbs in it excessive 3 slices of whole wheat bread, there’s no mention if the milk is low fat and in addition chocolote too much sugar. Well it would be better if it was just one egg.
2: french fries not the best choice because it absorbed too much uneeded fat. And again excessive amount of carbs adding the couscus. The portion on the ice cream it should be 1/2 c instead of 1 and obviously low fat, fat free, light.
3: too much protein 6oz, try it better 3 oz of lean meat not fried! There’s not detail describing if the pasta is whole wheat.
4: excessive amount of juice… Better if it is a fresh fruit. If you choose juice should be 100% and aprox just 4 oz. Two cups of cereal is too much tha. Recommendation and also there’s lack of two groups vegetables and protein. I know there is already some proteon in that plate thanks to the milk and cereal.
5:should be at least 8 oz of water… And maybe a little too much of carrots if the person has diabetes.

How did I do?? 😉 loved it… Waiting on the answers and healthy examples


Brooke June 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Hi Natalia, you did good! I can’t give you anymore feedback though…until my Tuesday post 😉


Courtney June 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm

My guesses:
1. Too many servings grains
2. Full fat dairy and french fries (high in sodium& fat)
3. Fried Chicken: Higher in sodium and fat and portion size is too larger (6oz)
4. 16 oz juice has a high amount of sugar. Cut portion size to 6oz and make sure its 100% Juice or drink water.
5. Large serving of dried fruit, should be 1/4 cup.


Ariel June 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Meal #1 – too much bread, too much dairy!
Meal #2 – awfully brown, but not sure that’s really against the rules – it does have 2 starches. Not sure what else is wrong with it
Meal #3 – Does the breading on the fried chicken count as a grain?
Meal #4 – Too much cereal, too much juice!
Meal #5 – too many cranberries, too much milk

These are hard!


Rosie June 10, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Meal #1–2 eggs, too much. 3 slices of bread too many starches.
Meal #2–too many starches between the fries and the couscous and ice cream portion is too big.
Meal #3–6 oz. of chicken–way too much and the breading would count as a starch. Yogurt and banana=too many starches.
Meal #4–too much cereal, portion size should be 1 cup and 16 oz. of apple juice is too many carbs. I think I serving of juice is 1/2 cup.
Meal #5–Too much peanut butter and 1/2 cup of cranberries is too many carbs.

Hey Brooke–sorry I’m so carb-focused–maybe that’s because that’s what I’m working on! Rosie


Mary Cashman June 10, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Hi Brooke – Here are my answers (it was a little hard):

1) cheese w/eggs & milk – too much protein
too many slices of bread

2) too much carbohydrates – not enough vegetables
no ice cream – use as treat

3) fried chicken not good and too much protein
not enough vegetables

4) too much cereal
too much juice

5) not enough vegetables
too much dried cranberries

Well, I tried Brooke. I think I have a lot to learn about nutrition!


Frank June 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Hi Brooke,
I’m stumped on some of those, but have a pretty good idea on others (fried chicken?)
I’ll wait for your answers.
Love dad


Kristen @ Swanky Dietitian June 10, 2011 at 3:25 pm

What a great post!! Let me have a crack at it…

#1 Chocolate milk and too many slices of bread
#2 Potatoes as veg and ice cream as dairy
#3 Increase portion of chicken and that it’s fried.
#4 Juice serving too large and no veg
#5 Too large portion of dried fruit and not enough veggies

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Love yours!


Brooke June 13, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Thanks for stopping by and guessing Kristen!


Teri June 10, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Ok, Brooke! Let’s see if what you’ve taught me has payed off! lol.
Meal 1: Too much bread
Chocolate milk doesn’t have any redeeming nutrients?
2 eggs and then cheese are 3 proteins! Should only do 1 per meal.
Meal 2: Should only have 3 oz. of grilled chicken
Instead of eating 2 starches, maybe they should have done one and then added a piece of fresh fruit?
French fries! Need I say more??
The ice cream isn’t low fat for sugar free and it’s a dairy and you’ve already gotten protein so you can’t have dairy!
Meal 3: Steamed green beans are ok..can have lots of veggies
Pasta salad-should use whole wheat pasta, (has tomatoes which is good! But the portion size is too big. What’s the dressing on that? Hmm…Probably not fat-free.
Fried chicken! and breading!!! I’m guessing you could have put some kind of flour or something on the chicken if you would have baked it?
Meal 4: Portion size too big on the cereal, apple juice? Probably sweetened? Maybe eat a fresh apple instead?
Meal 5: Two proteins instead of one, (milk and peanut butter), should use fresh instead of dry fruit because of the sugar? 8 oz. of milk? Looks like a bigger portion than it should be.
Those are my guesses!!!
Thanks! That was fun and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot!!!


Natalia rivera lausell June 14, 2011 at 1:20 am

What are the real answers??!! 😉 did i win lol! Loved it


Brooke June 14, 2011 at 1:24 am

The real answers will be posted tomorrow morning. Haha…no actually Kristen won the random draw. I wish everyone could have won though :)


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