Back in the mid-20th century, the act of balancing nutrition was in a state of arrested infancy. This was a time where processed foods, fast foods, and general foods of convenience were rapidly pushing out the square meals of yesterday. There arose a need, particularly for young America, to establish some sort of nutritional guideline and the ever-popular “Four Basic Food Groups” were created, and they were as follows:
(1) Meats, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs, and nuts
(2) Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt;
(4) Fruits and vegetables.
Below is a graphic (circa 1956) that demonstrates this concept for otherwise clueless children:
Then in 1992 the United States government realized some of the apparent limitations of these four basics, and erected the iconic Food Guide Pyramid (see graphic below):
This pyramid was highly successful at relentlessly bewildering generations of children and is likely the cause of the current obesity epidemic (OK, that last part is wholly inaccurate, but it is somewhat satisfying to pretend like the mythic pyramid is the root of all nutritional evil). The Food Guide Pyramid was graphically confounding and gave young and old the impression that they needed to have a firm grasp of what constitutes a serving size in order to understand good and sensible nutrition. Also, fats, oils, and sweets were oddly placed at the top of the pyramid, giving the false impression that these nutritional voids were essential toppings for the previous four (now five) basic food groups (and why where they included in the pyramid at all?). Then in 2005, the Food Pyramid was updated to be something less than a hierarchy and more of a fractioned pie chart with a little runner guy trying to climb the thing, all of which did nothing but confound eaters more than ever, and render the Pyramid more obsolete than ever (see below):