Food Groups vs. Macronutrients - In this latest guide, "protein" has replaced what was formerly known as the "meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts" group (1992) and later known as the "meat and beans" group (2005). While I appreciate the simplicity of reducing the group to one word, I must point out that protein is a macronutrient, not a food group, and is found in some percentage in every unprocessed whole food I can think of belonging to all of the other food groups. Protein is a unique macronutrient in that it is not stored by the body and therefore must be consumed continuously (i.e. daily). However considering that protein requirements will vary from individual to individual, I wouldn't represent it as a portion of a circle, but perhaps as a post-it reminder: Did you get your protein today? If you've eaten something other than the foods on this list, and aren't feeling abnormally fatigued, you probably did.
What the Dairy-Yo? - While whole dairy can be an excellent source of calcium and is a valuable balanced nutrient source for growing infants and children, don't be fooled. MyPlate features dairy so prominently because of the dairy industry's lobbying influence on the USDA. What I find particularly alarming is that a significant percentage of the US population is lactose intolerant (30-50 million), with higher prevalence among non-white Americans. Therefore I don't believe dairy warrants its own food group, although it could certainly be incorporated into protein (assuming we hold on to that group), forming the meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy, and dairy group. The circle accompanying MyPlate can still be used, I would just fill it with water.
Where's the fat? - The MyPlate guide doesn't give any indication of what to do about fats and oils, abandoning the previous USDA ambiguous recommendation to "use sparingly." Of course including fats as a food group presents the same problem as listing proteins as a food group, although there are many whole foods that are naturally fat-free. Oils are featured on a secondary page and throughout the website's recommendations, although I'm saddened that saturated fat is still demonized. I am here to tell you that fat is your friend. You don't want to overdo it, and the website does give clearer guidelines as to what "use sparingly" might actually mean for you. And don't think that eating fat makes you fat, because rather compelling science shows us that that distinction belongs to carbohydrates.
I am tempted to write at length about all of the ideas presented here, and I hope to go more in-depth in these topics in the future. For now I just want to draw your attention to the Harvard School of Public Health'sHealthy Eating Plate, which "fixes key flaws" in MyPlate. The task of fitting an entire nation's dietary needs into one simple graphic is bound to be imperfect, but I believe that the Healthy Eating Plate is that much closer to flawless.