The Benefits and Drawbacks of the Food Pyramid

by Michelle on April 5, 2018

For years we have been taught that the food pyramid is the end all when it comes to proper nutrition. Is there still any merit to the food pyramid today?

I’m sure you all remember learning about proper nutrition in high school…and the Food Pyramid was a vital part of that education.  Have you ever wondered where that came from? The food pyramid was first published in Sweden in 1972 but there were only three levels on this first version and it led to some confusion.  The “newer” pyramid (or Westernized version) was introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1992 and was called the “Food Guide Pyramid”. It had more sections (six this time) that made it easy to understand what amounts of certain foods to eat daily.  These six levels broke down as follows:

 

Grains (bread, cereal, rice, pasta, etc.) Group:  6 – 11 servings daily

Vegetable Group:  2 – 4 servings daily

Fruit Group:  2 – 4 servings daily

Dairy Group:  2 – 3 servings daily

Proteins (meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, etc.) Group:  2 – 3 servings daily

Fats, Oils, and Sweets Group:  use sparingly

This 1992 pyramid emphasized the importance of eating balanced, varied meals by showing the food groups in a way so as to keep proper categories and inform people about the number of servings to have each day.  There were several problems with this version however which included…no one knew what a proper “serving” amount was, healthy fats were lumped in with unhealthy ones, and this version was heavy on carbohydrates (grains) which isn’t the healthiest way to eat for a variety of reasons.  There was also interference in this pyramid’s creation by the major food industry groups who, of course, wanted higher profits by promoting more consumption of their products.

The pyramid was updated in 2005 to show a better understanding of reducing the carbs/starches section and including some healthy fats but it was still essentially the same old pyramid with minor clarifications.  There was a newer and better way to arrange your diet just a few years away.

In 2011 a completely new arrangement came about…”My Plate”!  This replaced the “pyramid” visual of days gone by showing how to arrange each meal better on your plate with a proper proportion of food groups:  Vegetables, Healthy Protein, Whole Grains, Fruits, Dairy, and minimal healthy fats. Vegetables & Fruits are to be about half of the plate with Whole Grains and Healthy Protein are each one quarter.No version of the pyramid or plate can take the place of proper eating nor can it be adequately displayed in a graphic that everyone will comprehend…but seeing how to proportion food on a plate is a good visual to start with.  Everyone has dietary likes and dislikes, caloric requirements, as well as possibly having some restrictions, but learning how to eat properly and counting calories is vital to a healthy body. This is just a way to hopefully help you start to understand proper nutrition and to get you thinking about your relationship with food and health.  As always, please check with your doctor before making any major dietary changes to make sure they’re appropriate for your personal health situation.

 

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