The old food guide pyramid was never very helpful, except for the agribusiness interests whose subsidies provide Americans with cheap, unhealthy food. The new food guide plate is a vast improvement. Its simple plate schematic easily summarizes how we should eat.
Pyramids are ancient history. And good riddance. The food guide pyramid admittedly had resonance among the greater public – but that was part of the problem. The pyramid was never about schematically educating consumers on the most healthful way to eat. Instead it was an illustration of the power of agribusiness interests on the American diet. As we have seen over the last few decades, the agribusiness diet did not lead to a more healthful American.
At the bottom of the pyramic was grains – hail the heartland! Eat more carbs! Let’s all consume refined white flour and let the diabesity fly!
Next up on the pyramid scheme was fruits and vegetables, thankyouverymuch. Then we had the appearance from the dairy interests and the cattlemen’s association. And then there was room for at the top – at about the same depth as all other groups albeit at the top of the pyramid – for oils and sweets.
The second iteration of the pyramid, rolled out in 2005, was a train wreck from the get-go. They were trying to emphasize the importance of exercise, so they tipped the pyramid on its side (still shaped like a pyramid) and had a stick figure running up the steps like some Teotihuacan runner. Nobody got it. Plus, the thing is a FOOD guide, not a lifestyle guide.
The new food guide is a masterstroke. It’s got a plate, which is usually the thing that food presents itself in. That right there is an improvement. The snarky commentariat view in the days leading up to its official release was that the new food guide diagram of a plate was going to look like a pie chart – a pie! How unhealthy! These comments turned out to be off base. There are only four elements on the plate – roughly a quarter each – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein. Off to the side, in a circle (shaped like a glass) is dairy.
One commentator sniffed that “protein” was not a food, like a fruit. I’ll file that under Grasping For Straws. We tell our kids that they have to eat protein. Even our four-year-old gets it. That’s the stuff like chicken or beans or steak or fish.