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The Brain-Dead Design Behind The USDA's New Dietary Chart

To see whether he wasn't the only one baffled by the chart's lame graphics, Rick Barrack interviewed the proverbial guy on the street.

Last month, I attended "back-to-school night" at my four-year-old’s preschool, where the teacher spelled out my daughter’s curriculum for the school year. Not only did she inform me that my kid would be learning eight languages plus calculus by the time Christmas rolls around; she also told me that I should not pack her lunch box with cookies, chips, or sugary juice boxes, as that would be a major Montessori faux pas. (Personally, I’m surprised they don’t have an organic chef on staff, given how much I’m dishing out in tuition.)

Unsure of how to achieve the optimal nutritional intake for my daughter, I turned to the USDA’s MyPlate well-intentioned initiative designed to (and promoted by Michelle Obama) remind parents of the basics of eating right. Given how much debate there’s been lately about childhood obesity and diabetes, I think there’s no better time to take a good, hard look at kids’ diets. So you can imagine my disappointment when I felt more baffled than ever after having a look at the primary graphic: a circle (presumably a plate) carved up four food groups, which looks to have spawned a smaller circle labeled "Dairy" (presumably a glass of milk). The plate is supposed to be an improvement over the food pyramid, which caught criticism for being too complicated to understand.

But as these on-the-street interviews show, MyPlate’s dietary recommendations are still far from self-evident. It does away with the pyramid’s number of servings but doesn’t provide its own details about number and size of recommended portions. With 17% of U.S. children facing obesity, clear dietary guidelines should be available for families looking to make healthful choices. Unfortunately, MyPlate doesn’t measure up.