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Gov't Issues New Visual to Tell You How to Eat -- And It Only Cost $2 Million

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“We’re working to make healthy choices easy choices.”

The Agriculture Department has issued a new food guide aimed at making healthier food choices easier. While that may be all well and good, the surgeon general admits the change is connected to Michelle Obama's obesity crusade that's already seen social engineering-like changes in school lunch programs.

The new guide is called "My Plate" -- a simple circle divided into quadrants that contain fruits, vegetables, protein and grains. It will replace USDA's food pyramid, which has been around in various forms since 1992. The new guide even comes with an accompanying website:

According to the surgeon general, that change is connected to Michelle Obama. And according to the secretary of agriculture, it has roots in believing that people just couldn't figure out the old one. Forbes reports:

“We’re working to make healthy choices easy choices,” said Surgeon General Regina Benjamin at this morning’s unveiling, who linked the new diagram to First Lady Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack followed by explaining the need for the tool, “My Pyramid was simply too complex,” he said, and is confident the new tool will be effective is a “simple visual research based icon about proportion sizes and what should be on the American plate.”

That opened up a door to some lampooning by Gawker:

America's top doctor, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, confirms that this new "plate" is connected to Michelle Obama's larger plot to stop fat people from being so fat all the time. According to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, the fatties were too fat to interpret a pyramid, which was really just a garden-variety 2D triangle.

The AP interprets it with less snark:

USDA officials say the pyramid was tired out, overly complex and tried to communicate too many different nutrition facts at once. The new symbol, unveiled Thursday at the department with first lady Michelle Obama in attendance, is simple and gives diners an idea of what should be on their plates when they sit down at the dinner table.

One change viewers will notice is that there are no longer any references to sugars, fats or oils, and what was once a category called "meat and beans" is now simply "proteins." Next to the plate is a blue circle for dairy, which could be a glass of milk or a food such as cheese or yogurt.

The plate is base on recently-released nutrition guidelines. In addition to telling people to drastically reduce salt and continue limiting saturated fats, the most recent set of guidelines asked diners to enjoy food but balance calories by eating less and taking smaller portions. It also suggested making half of your plate fruits and vegetables, a message easily translated on the dinner plate.

But while those behind the new icon are excited, critics are jumping on the large price tag behind the project. From Forbes:

According to the New York Times, the U.S.D.A. has already spent $2 million developing and promoting the plate logo, costs that covered research, focus groups and the creation of a new Web site. That total will likely swell after publicity efforts are kicked off in the first year of the new  campaign announced this morning by First Lady Obama, who promised that her Let’s Move initiative would continue to work to promote MyPlate in coming months.

Still, Michelle Obama couldn't be happier.

“Since seeing the plate icon, I can’t help but look at my own plate differently,” she said. “I find myself doing a quick checklist to know that I have a balanced meal. I know that in the months to come millions of Americans will be doing the same thing thanks to MyPlate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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