As of this coming Thursday, the food pyramid — that symbol of healthy eating — is going to go the way of the real pyramids and becoming a thing of the past. This week, the Obama administration will be unveiling a new graphic to tell American consumers what quantities of grains, fruits and vegetables, protein and dairy they should eat to maintain a healthy diet. The pyramid is to be replace by a plate, with four different-colored sections indicating how much of each food group the United States Department of Agriculture recommends and is a “crucial element of the administration’s crusade against obesity” led by first lady Michelle Obama, as the New York Times says.
Half of the sections on the plate will be for fruits and vegetables. A smaller circle beside it will indicate a day’s dairy allowance. This new logo, which cost about $2 million to develop and promote, is meant to educate Americans about new federal dietary guidelines released in January.
Nutritionists and public health officials are not mourning the passing of the food pyramid which was introduced in 1992. The original idea was to have food groups that one eats larger portions of — fruits, vegetables, grains — at the wider base. Dairy and protein were to be placed towards the pointy top of the pyramid. However, the dairy and meat industries objected, saying that their products were being “stigmatized” (I guess they didn’t see being at the top of the pyramid as being at the “summit” and “crown”?).
A revised pyramid, MyPyramid, was released in 2005, but designed in such a way that whatever nutritional information it was to communicate was rendered almost useless:
[MyPyramid] turned the old hierarchy on its side, with vertical brightly colored strips standing in for the different food groups. It also showed a stick figure running up the side to emphasize the need for exercise.
Just from the descriptions of it, the new symbol — there’s debate about what to call it, as two things it resembles, “pie chart” and “pizza,” have some rather non-healthy associations — makes sense to me. Most of us eat our meals off a plate (or from a similarly shaped bowl), rather than anything like a pyramid. One could say, the new logo is tastefully democratic, although the dairy industry might object to the satellite-sidekick status allotted to their products with the little circle to the side.
Will you miss MyPyramid? More to the point, will the new logo help people make healthy choices about what to eat, or was that $2 million better spent?
Image from Wikimedia Commons.