Healthy Eating Plate & Healthy Eating Pyramid

The Healthy Eating Plate, created by nutrition experts at Harvard School of Public Health and editors at Harvard Health Publications, was designed to address deficiencies in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s MyPlate. The Healthy Eating Plate provides detailed guidance, in a simple format, to help people make the best eating choices.

Use the Healthy Eating Plate as a guide for creating healthy, balanced meals – whether served on a plate or packed in a lunch box. Put a copy of this diagram on your refrigerator as a daily reminder to create healthy balanced meals!

•  Make most of your meal vegetable and fruits. These items should should make up 1/2 of your plate. Aim for color and variety, and remember that potatoes don’t count as vegetables on the Healthy Eating Plate because of their negative impact on blood sugar. Try to eat more vegetables and fruits each day. Keep fruit where you can see it. That way you’ll be more likely to eat it. Explore the produce aisle and choose something new. Variety is the key to a healthy diet. Make it a meal. Try cooking new recipes that include more vegetables. Salads and stir fries are two ideas for getting tasty vegetables on your plate.

•  Go for whole grains. Make 1/4 of your plate come from whole and intact grains. Examples of this would be who wheat, barley, wheat berries, quinoa, oats, brown rice, and foods made with them, such as whole wheat pasta. Whole and intact grains have a milder effect on blood sugar and insulin than white read, white rice and other refined grains.

•  Protein power should comprise 1/4 of your plate. Fish, chicken, beans and nuts are all healthy, versatile protein sources – they can be mixed into salads, and pair will with vegetables on a plate.  Limit red meat, and avoid processed meats such as bacon and sausage. Read more about protein here.

•  Healthy plant oils should be eaten in moderation. Choose healthy vegetable oils like olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut, and others, and avoid partially hydrogenated oils, which contain unhealthy trans fats. Remember that low-fat does not mean healthy.

•  Drink water, coffee or tea. Skip sugary drinks, limit milk and dairy products to one to two servings per day, and limit juice to a small glass per day. Learn why sugary drinks are bad for you and cause weight gain.

•  Stay active. The Red figure running across the Healthy Eating Plate’s placement is a reminder that staying active is also important in weight control. It doesn’t take marathon training to see real health gains. A 30-minute brisk walk on five days of the week is all most people need. Getting any amount of exercise is better than none.

The main message of the Healthy Eating Plate is to focus on diet quality.

The type of carbohydrate in the diet is more important than the amount of carbohydrate in the diet, because some sources of carbohydrate – like vegetables (other than potatoes), fruits, whole grains, and beans – are healthier than others. The Healthy Eating Plate also advises consumers to avoid sugary beverages which are a major source of calories, usually with little nutritional value. The Healthy Eating Plate encourages consumers to use healthy oils, and it does not set a maximum on the percentage of calories people should get each day from healthy sources of fat. In this way, the Healthy Eating Plate recommends the opposite of the low-fat message promoted for decades by the USDA.

Generations of Americans are accustomed to the food pyramid design, and it’s not going away. In fact, the Healthy Eating Pyramid and the Healthy Eating Plate complement each other.

Consumers can think of the Healthy Eating Pyramid as a grocery list:

Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy oils, and healthy proteins like nuts, beans, fish, and chicken should make it into the shopping cart every week, along with a little yogurt or milk if desired.
The Healthy Eating Pyramid also addresses other aspects of a healthy lifestyle—exercise, weight control, vitamin D, and multivitamin supplements, and moderation in alcohol for people who drink—so it’s a useful tool for health professionals and health educators.

The Healthy Eating Plate and the companion Healthy Eating Pyramid summarize the best dietary information available today. They aren’t set in stone, though, because nutrition researchers will undoubtedly turn up new information in the years ahead. The Healthy Eating Pyramid and the Healthy Eating Plate will change to reflect important new evidence.

“Copyright © 2011 Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health,, and Harvard Health Publications,”


“Copyright © 2008. For more information about The Healthy Eating Pyramid, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health,, and Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, by Walter C. Willett, M.D., and Patrick J. Skerrett (2005), Free Press/Simon & Schuster Inc.”