09/16/2011 12:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Harvard Healthy Eating Plate Tries To One-Up USDA's MyPlate, Meets Opposition

Harvard is not a place known for its humility, but taking on the US government is pretty audacious even for the Crimson Horde. But the Harvard School of Public Health apparently considers nutrition a cause worthy of rousing its anti-governmental spirit. On Wednesday, the school announced that it had developed its own "Healthy Eating Plate" in response to the USDA's controversial "MyPlate" guide to healthy eating.

Here's Harvard's proposed model:

The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate emphasizes fresh fruit and vegetables, as MyPlate does. But unlike its government-sponsored rival, Harvard's proposal tells people that they should not drink sugary drinks, that potatoes do not count as vegetables and that bacon should be avoided whenever possible. (That last dour proposal is already being followed by Harvard undergraduates; their dining halls cancelled hot breakfast service in 2009.)

The development team at the School of Public Health spoke with the Wall Street Journal about the thinking behind their Healthy Eating Plate:

The government’s “is simple,” but “maybe too simple,” said Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition and chair of HSPH’s department of nutrition, on a conference call with reporters. “It doesn’t have the details necessary to make healthy food choices.”

The Boston Globe talked to nutrition expert Marion Nestle to get her views on Harvard's proposal. She had some kind words to say, but ultimately disputed its injunction against eggs and low-fat dairy. She ultimately concluded:

“Let me say in sympathy that these kinds of guides are exceedingly difficult to do,” she said. “I think the emphasis on diet quality -- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats -- is terrific but I’m also a foodie. I care a lot about the way food tastes and its diversity. I want more room for both on my plates.”

This isn't the first time the Harvard School of Public Health has challenged the USDA's food guideline hegemony. Back in the days of the Food Pyramid, the school released its own, rival version of the pyramid, which, like the new Healthy Eating Plate, emphasized exercise, produce and whole grains over red meat and processed carbohydrates. Here's a video explaining that proposal.