For Immediate Release: March 7, 2011
Contact: Mya Rae Nelson 202-328-7744

Cancer Experts Say "Plates, Not Pyramids"
Can Help Americans Make Dietary Changes

Bring the New Dietary Guidelines Home With
AICR’s Time-Tested "New American Plate" Approach to Healthy Meals

old plate to the New American PlateWASHINGTON, DC – Experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) said today that if Americans are going to put the latest Dietary Guidelines into action, they need to be shown how, simply and clearly. For years, AICR has advocated an approach that does just that: A rule-of-thumb for meal planning called The New American Plate.

"We’re thrilled that the new, evidence-based Dietary Guidelines focus on a plant-based diet and make obesity prevention the priority it needs to be," said Alice Bender, AICR Registered Dietitian. "But we’re concerned that Americans still aren’t following the guidelines, after three decades of effort. Clearly, something needs to change – the stakes are too high to go on like this."

Currently, two in three Americans are overweight or obese; only 1 in 4 Americans eat more than two vegetable servings a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

This is of concern to AICR’s cancer experts because obesity is a cause of several cancers, and the typical American diet, high in meat and low in plant foods, has also been linked to increased cancer risk. In fact, AICR estimates that about 1/3 of the most common cancers – over 340,000 cases every year -- could be prevented if Americans ate smart, moved more and stayed lean.

Americans Need a Simple, Visual Approach to Healthy Eating

"When Americans think about what they eat, they think in terms of meals," said Bender. "That’s why we should be talking about plates, not pyramids."

AICR’s award-winning New American Plate approach is a simple rule-of-thumb – at every meal, fill 2/3 or more of your plate with plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains and 1/3 or less with fish, poultry or meat.

This approach was developed by AICR over a decade ago and grows out of the organization’s evidence-based advice for lowering cancer risk. AICR’s New American Plate brochure series – free publications which show how to adapt the approach to favorite comfort foods, breakfasts, one-pot meals and more – is its most popular; over the years, millions of Americans have learned how to transition from traditional, unhealthy meals to the those that fit on the New American Plate.

Tips for Transitioning to the New American Plate

To make meals that belong on the New American Plate, you don’t have to count calories; it all starts by taking a good, hard look at what’s on your plate.

  1. Take a good look: What’s on your plate right now? Is it mostly meat and potatoes? Is everything beige or brown?
  2. Color it up: If vegetables are nowhere to be seen, add colorful ones such as carrots, tomatoes or broccoli. Full of fiber and water, these foods help fill you up with fewer calories.
  3. Keep portions in proportion: Reduce your meat portion so it’s no larger than the palm of your hand (about 2-3 ounces) to fill 1/3 or less of your plate. Let the remaining 2/3 of your plate hold colorful, low-calorie vegetables along with moderate-sized portions of whole grains and beans.

If you’re looking to lose weight, you may need to reduce your portion sizes across the board. For example, a New American Plate for healthy weight might look like this: A 2-3 ounce portion of lean meat, 1 cup of a leafy green salad topped with a tablespoon of dressing and a few chickpeas and 1/2 cup of sweet potatoes.

It might take you a few weeks to achieve that proportion, but according to Bender, "Each step you take towards the New American Plate helps you lower your risk for cancer, obesity and other chronic diseases."

At AICR’s website you’ll find practical tips, recipes and tools that can help you make every meal fit on the New American Plate – and bring the Guidelines home.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association that operates as the umbrella organization for the network. The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (; Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (; World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (; and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (

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