WASHINGTON —MyPlate, a new symbol government officials said will be a part of a healthy-eating initiative that will convey seven key messages from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, was unveiled June 2 by the US Department of Agriculture.

The new plate symbol emphasizes the fruit, vegetable, grains, protein and dairy food groups and it replaces the Food Pyramid, which was introduced in 1992 and later revised in 2005. The second version, available at mypyramid.gov, was criticized widely for being difficult to read.

“With so many food options available to consumers, it is often difficult to determine the best foods to put on our plates when building a healthy meal,” said Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture. “MyPlate is an uncomplicated symbol to help remind people to think about their food choices in order to lead healthier lifestyles. This effort is about more than just giving information, it is a matter of making people understand there are options and practical ways to apply them to their daily lives.”

According to USDA, the new symbol will convey seven key messages, including: enjoy food but eat less; avoid oversized portions; make half your plate fruits and vegetables; switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk; make at least half your grains whole grains; drink water instead of sugary drinks; and compare sodium (salt) in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and choose foods with lower numbers.

“What we have learned over the years is that consumers are bombarded by so many nutrition messages that it makes it difficult to focus on changes that are necessary to improve their diet,” Vilsack said. “This new campaign calendar will help unify the public and private sectors to coordinate efforts and highlight one desired change for consumers at a time.”

“We are pleased that the new food icon unveiled today, just as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, affirms in a clear and simple fashion that protein is a critical component of a balanced, healthy diet,” said James Hodges, American Meat Institute Foundation president. “Lean meat and poultry products are some the most nutrient rich foods available, are excellent sources of complete protein, iron and zinc and maintain an excellent nutrition per calorie ratio. AMI will continue to voice support for the premise that a well-balanced diet, proper portion sizes and exercise are keys to overall good health and wellness.”

The new icon is available at ChooseMyPlate.gov.