In a live morning Webcast, First Lady Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin today revealed MyPlate—the next-gen Food Pyramid that aims to guide Americans toward a healthier diet.

The new food icon, which can be found at ChooseMyPlate.gov, is a "simple, visual, research-based icon that sends a clear and unmistakable message about portion sizes and what should be on the American plate," said Vilsack. The food plate is consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and is a continuation of Michelle Obama's Let's Move project. The plate took many months of USDA, Health and Human Services, and other private and public sector partners working together to develop.

"We realized that we needed something that makes sense not just in ChooseMyPlate.govclassrooms or laboratories, but something that made sense at the dinner table," said the first lady. More than one in three children are obese, triple the rate in 1980. Obama said the new plate is "kid-friendly" and simple enough for children to understand at the preschool level.

"Today is an enormous step in the right direction," she said. "This day was exactly the kind of day I envisioned when we started Let's Move over a year ago. We want to end this country's epidemic of childhood obesity."

In a recent blog, Food Politics author and nutritionist Marion Nestle called the plate's predecessor, MyPyramid, "foodless and useless." Today, Vilsack said the reality of that symbol, released in 2005, is that it's "too complex to serve as a quick and easy guide for busy American families."

The new food plate, by contrast, is more intuitive and easy to use. "In a nutritionist's office, working off a plate with a client will be a lot easier than working off any of the previous graphics," said Nestle.

At ChooseMyPlate.gov, interactive tools and information show how to build a healthy meal based on the 2010 dietary guidelines for all Americans. "Instead of talking about what Americans can't do and can't eat, we need to talk about what they can enjoy eating to be healthy," said Benjamin.

The new MyPlate comes with six statements to encourage consumers to take action on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

Balancing Calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Foods to Reduce

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals—and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

What about dessert? "We are not suggesting this is what you should always eat," said Vilsack, noting that the food plate aims to tell you proper proportions of what to eat, instead of what specifically to eat.