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Farewell, Food Pyramid; Meet Your New $2 Million Replacement, a Plate

Farewell, Food Pyramid; Meet Your New $2 Million Replacement, a Plate

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?


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Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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5:37AM PDT on May 15, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

4:31PM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

Good bye food pyramid!

4:26PM PST on Nov 18, 2011


7:11AM PDT on Jun 28, 2011

Yeah, the Masai drink up to a gallon of whole milk each, every day. So to say that dairy is unhealthy...

Did you read Real Food by Nina Planck? I read it when I was... I don't know, 15 or 16 and it changed my life. xD

9:42PM PDT on Jun 27, 2011

Right on, Jessica! Different cultures eat differently and some are more healthy and long-lived than others, but a lot depends on other factors. The Inuit live mostly on seals and consume very little in the way of fruits and vegetables, since after all, spinach and lettuce don't flourish in sub-zero temps. Those who are "privvy" to gettng food from "outside" are now starting to show signs of illness and disease. The Masai in Africa are EXTREMELY healthy and long-lived and they exist almost exclusively to the products from cattle.......including meat, milk AND the blood of their cattle. They eat few veggies, if any because they're hunters, NOT farmers.

These groups are probably "exceptions", and the point is to eat a BALANCED diet. Yes, there are products available for lactose-intolerant folks. They are sold everywhere, in pill form, powder and I've seen milk in the dairy case that specifically SAYS "Lactose Free".

7:56PM PDT on Jun 27, 2011

Diane L. is right; dairy is extremely healthy... when it's from healthy, grass-fed cows. You don't have to be vegan to eat cruelty-free. I would like to add that lactose-intolerant people can eat cultured milk products.

I feel that the food pyramid misguides people. Societies around the world show us that you can be completely carnivorous and be completely 100% healthy, or you can eat no meat and just dairy or eggs with your vegetables and be completely healthy. What's important isn't that you eat a certain amount of fruits, veggies, meat and dairy, but the quality of what you're eating.

9:48PM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

Joanna, nobody is twisting your arm to force YOU to drink milk or consume dairy, but making a blanket statement like that is unfair and certainly NOT factual. If you've read any of the discussions hee on Care.2, there have been dozens of so-called study results to back up YOUR opinion, and even more that show the opposite. Fact is that most who are not vegan or vegetarian have never felt the need to claim their way is the better way. Some people are lactose-intolerant, so of course, for them, unless they take meds to counter that, they CAN'T digest dairy, but for most of us, it is the healthiest choice to get what nutrients we need.

7:40PM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

One can see a number of lectures on vegetarian nutrition at the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii.

1:01PM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

I just can't understand WHY it cost so much to do this??? Money could have been much better spent, imho.

8:01AM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

How can anyone claim that dairy is healthy? It's XXI century :S

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