The Great Pyramid Wasnt So Great After All

healthy-dietThe Great Pyramid of Giza has mystified mankind for nearly 4,000 years.

The food pyramid developed in the 1990s by the United States Department of Agriculture [USDA] as a guide to healthy meal planning, proved to be equally mysterious. In fact it turned out to be too convoluted for lots of American moms to follow.

USDA food guides have been around for more than a century starting with 7 basic food groups in the 1930s and 40s, which was downsized after the Second World War to just 4 food groups.

The food pyramid introduced in the 1990s made more specific recommendations about daily number of servings from each of 6 food groupsdairy; meat; nuts and other proteins; vegetables; fruit; and bread, cereal and other grains. It got a facelift in 2005.

The pyramid scheme recommended more servings of some foods than most homemakers could manage to prepare. Imagine 6 to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice or pasta! Really? And none of the recommendations distinguished between good choices and bad ones within a single food group.

The original pyramid was really a monument to the political machinations of dairymen, cattlemen, and other special interest groups, all of whom were embroiled in a ridiculous food fight about which portions should be largest and most frequently eaten.

Revised in 2005, this new version ironically was something of a mis-infographic. And even though it was supposed to calm the political waters among the dairymen, cattlemen, and others of that ilk, it was still too much for the public to swallow.

In June 2011, MyPlate replaced MyPyramid as the government's primary food group symbol. First Lady Michelle Obamas concern about epidemic obesity among American kids helped topple the pyramid, replacing it with the more user friendly MyPlate meal planning template.

This new food planner has 5 color-coded food groups: grains, dairy, protein, veggies, and fruit. The recommended portion sizes show fruits and veggies taking up half the plate; and the smallest food portions are protein and dairy.

MyPlate is not a one-size fits all food plan. A preschoolers plate should include a rich variety of fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Smaller portions, regularly scheduled meals, and the elimination of empty calories are also advocated.

In addition to menu planners for older children, there are proposals for pregnant women, and one for older adults focusing on the special physical and nutritional needs of these two very unique demographics.

In the case of older adults, for example, the caloric needs decline, but the level of nutrients needed for optimal health remains the same. In fact, in some instances it may increase, depending on each persons health condition and level of activity.

Compared to the pyramid, the plate is great, but we Americans still have to wean ourselves off of excessive amounts of white flour, white sugar, and processed foodsno matter the food group. For example, lots of pre-packaged vegetable dishes and canned soups are loaded with sodium.

And the protein section of MyPlate doesnt explain that some grains and dairy products are also proteins, so you may wind up eating more of this important nutrient than you should. And then, for many of us, our actual plates are just too large. Still MyPlate is an important step in the right direction.

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