In case you’ve missed it, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has come out with a new food plate icon to replace the confusing and somewhat controversial food pyramid, and local nutrition experts are giving it the thumb’s up.

“The pyramid plan had too much information,” said Heli Roy, a nutritionist with the LSU Agricultural Center. “People saw all that food per day and thought they couldn’t eat that much when, in fact, they could.”

The new icon, called MyPlate, is fundamentally different from the old pyramid in that it focuses on one meal at a time, instead of an entire day’s consumption. The result is that it’s easier to understand and the recommendations are easier to put into practice.

The MyPlate logo also graphically illustrates just how much produce we should be consuming with each meal; fruits and vegetables take up half the plate.

According to the USDA, fruits and vegetables should each take up a quarter of the plate. The other half should be divided between high-protein foods, like meats or beans, and grain products, such as rice or pasta.

What’s more, half of the grain product should be whole-grain.

“That means trying to incorporate brown rice and whole-grain breads, for example, into your diet,” Roy said.

To the side of the plate is a smaller circle, labeled dairy. This could mean drinking a glass of low-fat milk or somehow making sure you incorporate a calcium-rich food with your meal, Roy said.

The food plan also includes a recommendation for soy-based beverages. These are high in calcium and they’re digestible by people who are lactose-intolerant.

One of the more noteworthy aspects of the MyPlate logo is how colorful it is. There’s a good reason for that.

“People need to think color when they plan a meal,” Roy said. “There should be lots of color, which you get from fruits and vegetables.”

The MyPlate plan emphasizes dark green, orange-yellow and red, which means foods like collard greens, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

“These colorful foods are the foods rich in vitamins and minerals, which help protect against heart disease and cancer,” Roy said. “They’re also high in fiber, which is good for the digestive tract.”

Contact Roy at hroy@agcenter.lsu.edu or go to http://www.choosemyplate.gov.