(Reuters) - The pyramid guide to healthy eating that many Americans grew up with has been scrapped, and in its place the Obama administration is serving a dinner plate icon sliced up by food groups.
The new guide, MyPlate, encourages Americans to make half of their meals fruit and vegetables as part of a balanced diet.
"When it comes to eating, what's more useful than a plate? What's more simple than a plate?" first lady Michelle Obama said on Thursday at the unveiling at the Department of Agriculture.
"This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we're eating," she said.
MyPlate, which includes colored sections for grains and proteins and a dairy cup beside it, is part of the administration's push to encourage healthy habits.
Dietary guidelines released in January told Americans to eat more produce and cut salt and fat, and the first lady has led a push to tackle obesity with her "Let's Move" initiative.
Food industry groups rushed to praise the new guide, which will replace the well-known food pyramid in classrooms, and will be used as part of federal food programs as well as by doctors and nurses.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said in a statement that lean beef could meet the protein recommendation. Grains groups praised suggestions that Americans eat more whole grains.
"This easy-to-understand illustration will help people remember what their own plate should look like," Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said in a statement.
"It likely will shock most people into recognizing that they need to eat a heck of a lot more vegetables and fruits."
REPLACING THE PYRAMID
The well-known pyramid -- which was first introduced in 1992 and stacked foods by suggested number of servings -- was widely criticized. Nutritionists said it encouraged too many servings of grains, and producers said the bottom-up ranking discouraged Americans from buying foods at the top of the pyramid.
The 2005 MyPyramid replaced the hierarchy with vertical stripes correlating to recommended servings and an online program that let users develop a food plan. Health professionals found that complicated and difficult to teach.
MyPlate keeps the online tools for personal eating plans, now located at www.choosemyplate.gov, replacing the pyramid with a visual similar to those used by the American Diabetes Association and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
"I'm supposed to be able to grab that pyramid and go into a lecture and teach a group of people how to eat. In the past, it's not been very effective," said Kathryn Strong, a dietitian with the physicians group.
"If you're looking at a plate, that's something you can directly translate to whatever you're about to eat."
(Reporting by Emily Stephenson, editing by Maureen Bavdek)