The Food Pyramid
Article by Ray Darken
The food pyramid is a nutritional guide published primarily by the federal government to provide proper dietary information or instruction to the American. As like anything organic, the food pyramid has constantly evolved since its inception.
Originally, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid of 1992 divided the three food groups into six new groups. These groups are the carbohydrates group which was retained as is, the vegetables group which was further divided into vegetables and fruits and finally, the proteins group which again was divided into meats, beans, eggs and nuts, milk yogurt and cheese and fats, oils and sweets. This version of the food pyramid was known as the food guide pyramid.
In 2004, the USDA filled in nutritional details that were lacking from the 1992 food pyramid. The 1992 food pyramid suggested only a certain amount of servings per food group per day. The 2004 food pyramid was designed to be a more individualized nutritional guide.
At the same time, the USDA was not the only organization to perform research on nutrition. The Harvard School of Public Health designed the healthy eating pyramid as a result of scientific study and research. This food pyramid was significantly better than the food guide pyramid of 2004.The healthy eating pyramid actually recommended a daily intake of each food group. An individual’s age, sex and lifestyle determined the quantity of each intake.
During this time, controversy arose between the food pyramid of Harvard and that of the USDA. Proponents and supporters of the Harvard model claimed that the USDA pyramid was flawed. The argument had to do with the fact that it was the USDA, and not the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), that created the food pyramid. Ergo, the food pyramid of the USDA was prone to influence from lobbyists in the food industry. As far as the Harvard model was concerned, it was created purely from scientific study and research. This, they claim, made the Harvard model tailor-made for American nutrition.
In addition to the above controversy, Harvard scientists disagreed with the 2004 food guide pyramid of the USDA because it did not separate whole grain from wheat grain. The USDA food pyramid also did not differentiate between saturated fat and unsaturated fat. Furthermore, the USDA food pyramid failed to be more emphatic when it came to discussing weight control and exercise.
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In January 2005, the USDA together with the HHS released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. On the 19th of April of that same year, MyPyramid was released by the USDA. Ironically, this food pyramid version emphasized activity and moderation. Harvard criticized the 2004 food pyramid for lacking these two qualities. History’s hand can be seen in shaping the evolution of the food pyramid.
Basically, MyPyramid is a food pyramid that contains guidelines on activity, moderation and correct information for mixing food groups in an individual’s diet. Since the information is very much tailored to meet an individual’s nutritional needs, they set-up a website specific to MyPyramid. MyPyramid has a website with mypyramid.gov as its address. The federal government even has an online dietary assessment website at mypyramidtracker.gov/newuser.aspx. In addition, the term “servings” has been replaced by the more specific cups and ounces.
This food pyramid contains eight divisions. There is now a clear division between whole grain and wheat grain. It is emphasized that half of grain intakes be composed of whole grains. Dark green vegetables, dry beans, peas and orange vegetables make-up the vegetable division. A variety of fruits are emphasized as opposed to fruit juices. Vegetable, nut and fish oils are highly recommended. The milk division includes other dairy products. Low-fat and lean meats as well as fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds are grouped into the protein sub-division. People are urged to perform physical exercises of 30 minutes a day. Calories, candy, alcohol and other foods are rated as discretionary.
Again, the government has drawn criticisms (as it usually does) for this food pyramid. If a person has to use a website to access their personalized dietary information, what happens to those people who do not have access to the internet? Secondly, there are no labels to define the colors of the pyramid. Although it is explained that the colors denote the food groups, one cannot always remember the designations. Third, this food pyramid was supposed to be patterned after the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It seems that there isn’t much relation between this 80 page document and MyPyramid. These are just some of the criticisms that MyPyramid has incurred. Conversely, supporters claim that it is easy to understand once one gets used to it and that the website provides more than enough information. Go figure.
Chris Food Pyramid
Image by Daniel Waite Penny