top of page
  • Writer's pictureWellness Workdays

How to Set Your Plate for Success


Consuming a healthy diet can be difficult, tricky and confusing at times. There are several healthy diets and tools available to help you in this process. But which guidelines are we supposed to follow? The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate and USDA’s MyPlate were both created in 2011 to help Americans make better food choices. When reviewing each plate, there are some obvious differences.

Let’s talk about just a few of the differences:

  1. Healthy Oils/Fat: In Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, healthy oils are included. And although the USDA’s MyPlate does not include healthy oils on their MyPlate image, the importance of consuming them is discussed on the ChooseMyPlate website.

  2. Water vs. Dairy: MyPlate includes a food group for dairy whereas the Healthy Eating Plate has eliminated dairy from the plate. However, dairy is not fully eliminated. Instead, Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate suggests limiting dairy products to once or twice a day. On the other hand, MyPlate suggests eating up to three servings of dairy a day. Although this may seem confusing, they’re really not that different. The Healthy Eating Plate suggests limiting dairy while MyPlate says up to three servings. While there may be a dairy discrepancy, in reality, it is only minor.

  3. Whole Grains vs. Grains: While USDA’s MyPlate does not emphasize that all grains should be whole grain like the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate does, it does recommend that at least half of your grain consumption come from whole grains everyday. So a consumer could eat all whole grains on either plate. It is healthier for an individual to eat fewer refined grains, leading both plates to emphasize the importance of whole grains in our diets.

  4. Stay Active: Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate takes the extra step when it comes to health by including physical activity as part of a well-balanced diet. Physical activity does have a tab on the ChooseMyPlate website, but it’s not directly part of the plate.

The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate is more specific and strives for making more healthy changes to the diet than the USDA’s MyPlate. But don’t be fooled, MyPlate has a lot more behind-the-scenes recommendations that consumers might be missing. The idea of both plates is to make it your own plate and personalize it. You are more likely to stick to healthy changes in your diet when you’re eating what you want.

A preferable healthy plate utilizes half of your plate for vegetables and fruits; one-fourth of the plate should be grains with an emphasis on limiting refined grains. The last quarter of the plate should be your preferable protein sources. Regardless of how you personalize your plate, the ideal plate should always be colorful.

Bottom Line: Both plates provide great information and the websites are easy to understand. It may be easier to start following MyPlate and switch to the Healthy Eating Plate once you are ready for your next health challenge. It’s important to balance your plate to ensure that you are getting enough protein, fiber and healthy fats in your diet and always try to include a variety of colors.

Written by: Emily Coleman, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern. Learn more about Wellness Workdays and our wellness program offerings by downloading our brochure.

Sources: 1. USDA ChooseMyPlate

bottom of page