We’ve all seen it, studied it and even tried to follow it – the food pyramid. It made its debut over a decade ago, created by the USDA to educate the public on healthy food choices. Alas, the American waistline continued to expand; the old food pyramid just wasn’t doing its job.
Since its inception there have always been those who felt it wasn’t entirely correct. For this reason other pyramids were devised – pyramids for vegetarians, pyramids for high-protein dieters, even pyramids for specific cultures.
Finally, the USDA took note of their own failing pyramid and began intense research into nutrition, fitness and health to produce the just unveiled New Food Pyramid in 2005.
The New Food Pyramid Guidelines
When you first look at the New Food Pyramid you will notice a resemblance to the old. It’s still a pyramid. However, not much else is the same. The new pyramid is on its side and is brightly colored in orange, green, red, yellow, blue and purple triangular stripes. Each stripe is meant to represent a particular food category and its width demonstrates the proportion in which it should be consumed with relation to the other food categories.
The orange stripe represents grains (of which half should come from whole grains), green is for vegetables, red represents fresh, canned, frozen and dried fruit, blue is for milk products (low- fat or fat-free), and purple is for meat and beans, or sources of protein. The smallest band, yellow, is for oils. A set of stairs on the left leads to the pinnacle of the pyramid, they represent physical activity and the importance of fitness on a person’s health. On the bottom of the pyramid are pictures of food that correlate to each color, helping the reader to get a visual of how much of each food group and in what proportion they should be eating.
The old pyramid was a “one-size-fits-all”. The USDA solved the dilemma this time around by creating twelve different pyramids, each based on the amount of calories consumed by the individual and on their level of physical activity. So, how can a person determine which pyramid they should use? There is an interactive demo on the website shown above which allows the user to place their age, sex and physical activity level into a form which then spits out the correct pyramid, in addition to serving sizes, tips and advice, for that person.
The USDA, other government officials and health and nutritional educators alike are all hoping that the New Food Pyramid will help to educate the public better on their food choices. Their overall goal is to increase the health and quality of life of the population.
Many health agencies and educational professionals are happy with the new food pyramid and the advice it offers. However, there are others who feel that it still doesn’t show the full picture of nutrition and how it relates to our health. For example, the loudest complaint is that in order for a person to know how many servings of each category they should be getting (in other words, to personalize their own pyramid), they need access to the internet. Many Americans don’t have this capability or will never do it of their own free will. Additionally, critics are lamenting the fact that the difference between protein sources is not better defined. The recommendation that only one-half of grains come from whole grains is another topic of contention. Only time will tell if the New Food Pyramid is everything it was planned to be. In the meantime, take control of your own diet and fitness, educate yourself, take classes, read, ask questions and get involved in your own health.