Food Pyramid, critics have been complaining that the overly complicated symbol doesn't help Americans eat better. Enter the plate system, designed to save the day!
This system simply divides a plate into parts, and suggests what foods should go where. Of course, the plate system is not immune to lobbyists: The produce-lobby-sponsored site Fruits & Veggies, More Matters, offers a somewhat simplistic plate, half of which contains fruits and vegetables. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group supported by PETA offers a plate system containing no animal products at all.
However, in researching this post, I found excellent versions of the plate system: In particular, I like this one by Family Education, (an educational website owned by education-media giant Pearson,) which goes a step further. It divides the plate into several different-sized segments, and specifies what should go in each one. The largest segment is for "non-starchy" vegetables, the second includes dairy, starchy vegetables (including beans and corn!) fruits and grains, the next smallest for lean protiens and one tiny section remains for fats. IMO, it's a much better visual plan for a diet (and I'm busted for counting peas and beans in my half-plate system!)
The American Diabetic Association offers a similar plate-system, including the step of measuring the plate itself - a critical issue in addressing portion control. Their system is similar to the Family Education one, but they offer a list of specific examples of which foods belong in each category. Finally, tableware manufacturer Royal Staffordshire offers the The Diet Plate, containing a visual map of these principles...looking at the instructions, it seems a bit overcomplicated, but the pictures do offer a good visual guide.
We've adopted the "half your plate" policy in our house, and have found it to be an effective way of making sure we are following the dietary guidelines - happy eating!