Harvard improves on the USDA “MyPlate” guidelines.

But falls short of delivering complete scientific integrity

Yesterday, I was searching Amazon books and the internet at large (with google) using the two words, “healthy eating.” I am delighted to report that our book comes up in the #2 slot on Amazon—right behind Eat, Drink and Be Healthy, the Harvard Medical School’s Guide to Healthy Eating.

The results were not so encouraging for the complete internet. Google did their part by delivering over 240 million results in 1/5 of a second. But, alas, this site nor our book appeared anywhere in the first several hundred. A quick scan confirmed that most of the results from the internet search are based on the USDA guidelines that feature oil, meat, fish, milk, cheese and eggs along with a confusing MyPlate recommendations for including a lot of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Coincidentally, I was attracted once again by a Harvard page. It appears on the website of the Harvard School of Public Health. On that page, the Harvard folks compared their own “Healthy Eating Plate” to the USDA’s MyPlate. While the Harvard plate was a great improvement, it fell way short of delivering unadulterated scientific integrity on the subject. For that interpretation of “healthy eating,” we turn to Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell—the author of The China Study and the founder of the T. Colin Campbell Foundation. That’s the one with the tagline: Scientific Integrity for Optimal Health.

Harvard's version is a big improvement over the UDSA, but lacks complete scientific integrity and is still confusing.

Let’s compare all three on the five food categories of MyPlate: grains, protein, vegetables, fruits and dairy


  • MyPlate. Does not tell consumers that whole grains are better.
  • Harvard. Encourages whole grains and recommends limiting refined grains.
  • TCC agrees with Harvard on this one.


  • MyPlate. Makes no distinction among animal or plant sources of protein.
  • Harvard. Encourages consumption of fish, poultry, beans and nuts and suggests limiting or avoiding red meat.
  • TCC. Makes it real clear; eliminate all animal products and derive all protein from whole, plant-based foods.


  • MyPlate. Does not distinguish between potatoes and other vegetables.
  • Harvard. Encourages an abundant variety of healthy vegetables and acknowledges that french fries are not one of them.
  • TCC. Recommends a variety of colorful and health-promoting whole vegetables; still in Nature’s package.


  • MyPlate. Their plate would suggest that 15% or so should be fruit, but it doesn’t clarify whether they should be fresh, dried or canned.
  • Harvard. Recommends eating plenty of fruits of all colors.
  • TCC. Advocates lots of fresh, colorful fruits; still in Nature’s package.


  • MyPlate. Recommends consuming some dairy at every meal; ignoring the scientific evidence that challenges its suitability for human consumption.
  • Harvard. Encourages drinking water instead of milk and limiting milk and dairy to one or two servings a day.
  • TCC. No DAIRY EVER. “Milk is nature’s most perfect food—for baby cows; not for humans.”


  • MyPlate. Is silent on fats of all kinds.
  • Harvard. Their plate depicts a bottle of “healthy oil,” and it encourages consumers to use olive, canola, and other plant oils in cooking, on salads, and at the table.
  • TCC. There is no such thing as a “healthy oil.” All are 100% fat and they are not whole foods, in nature’s package.

Once again, it’s the same old story of “confusion over clarity.” What’s a person to believe when they hear so many different opinions? My recommendation is to believe the overwhelming scientific and clinical evidence supporting a diet of whole, plant-based foods. The alternative is to listen to the tainted advice of organizations who have a definite conflict of interest with the producers of our food.

Is the Harvard Eating Plate better than the USDA’s? You betcha! Is it still confusing? YES. And it’s not going to change very many minds. Our Western world is in a serious health and environmental crisis and lame advice like this is not going to get the job done. If you want scientific integrity on this crucial topic, choose T. Colin Campbell, The China Study and the T. Colin Campbell Foundation.

Extra Credit. I will give Harvard some extra credit for including “exercise” in their recommendations for healthy living. I just wish they were not still recommending the consumption of ANY foods that are associated with the promotion of chronic disease.

Question. When I know that they’re wrong on a few things, how will I know to believe them when they are right?

The Bottom Line. Why is there so much confusion about something that has been scientifically proven to be so simple? Short answer: MONEY. For me, I will choose integrity, clarity and simplicity every time. Incredibly, the entire topic can be summed up in two words. Just two words that will deliver more health-promoting power than MyPlate and the Harvard Eating Plate combined—–WHOLE PLANTS.

Visit 4leafprogram.com for more information on those two words.

Want to receive some occasional special news from us? You may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page.

If you’d like to order our book on Amazon, visit our BookStore now.

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

And if you like what 4-Leaf eating is doing for you and your family, you might enjoy visiting our new “4-Leaf Gear” store. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com

SHARE and rate this post below…One more thing, occasionally an unauthorized ad may appear beneath a blog post. It is controlled by WordPress (a totally free hosting service). I do not approve or personally benefit whatsoever from any ad that might ever appear on this site. I apologize and urge you to please disregard.

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
This entry was posted in Healthy Eating 101, Scientific Integrity. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Harvard improves on the USDA “MyPlate” guidelines.

  1. Jim – I pasted short excerpts and a link to today’s blog at


    Would be great if your readers went to the Amazon.com book review link for the new Atkins book and voted for “Helpful” for the posts that support plant-based nutrition as “The diet for All Reasons!”

  2. Ohhhh, another great post! I applaud Harvard’s School of Public Health for publicizing it’s recommendations for a healthy diet, but it is still concerning that they recommend dairy and animal protein in any form.

  3. barbaraH says:

    “Short answer – money” is exactly right, as always. There was a NY Times article a while back about medical students at Harvard protesting that the information they were getting from their professors was heavily biased by their professors’ industry ties. While looking for that article to post here I found an even more incriminating summary of Harvard’s industry ties that you might like to read. Here are two quotes:

    “A pathologist and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, [Dr. Marcia Angell] began raising the alarm in 2000, when she wrote in the NEJM that medical schools were becoming “increasingly beholden to industry.”

    “There were other stories, too, like the Harvard students who sat in class listening to a professor drone on about the benefits of statins—only to find out later that their teacher had been paid by 10 drug companies, five of which make the cholesterol treatments he’d been advocating.”

    From: http://ethicalnag.org/2010/05/01/harvard-conflict-of-interest-big-pharma/


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