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So, What's up With the Food Pyramid?

By Rachel Carver

The USDA introduced the Food Guide Pyramid in 1992. This visual reference helped Americans figure out what to eat.

Grains made up the base, suggesting 6-11 daily servings. Fruits and vegetables made up the next layer, followed by protein and dairy. Fats, sweets, and oils topped off the pyramid, and Americans were encouraged to use them sparingly.

The USDA updated the pyramid in 2005 with vertical slices instead of stacked categories. In 2011, MyPlate, a sectioned plate depicting fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein, replaced the pyramid. This updated guideline was designed to make it easier for consumers to eat a balanced diet.

What the Pyramid Got Right

The Food Guide Pyramid taught Americans the foundational components of a healthy diet -- fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also helped consumers learn about varying food groups and that all food can be part of a healthy eating pattern.

Consuming food in appropriate portion sizes can make a difference. For example, the pyramid placed high-sugar items at the top, demonstrating you should eat small amounts of these foods. Pyramids need a strong base to remain upright. Fresh produce and whole grains made up the Food Guide Pyramid's base, showing us we need high amounts of these items to stay strong and healthy.

Food Pyramid Failures

We eat our meals on plates, not pyramids. The pyramid concept was hard to visualize, and some people read the pyramid from the top instead of the bottom. The pyramid also did not take into account an individuals dietary needs.

The Food Guide Pyramid was released during a time when low or no fat was very popular. The pyramid told us to use all fats sparingly, failing to share that fats found in nuts, fish, and avocados are good for you. It also did not separate complex carbohydrates from simple carbohydrates.

Moving to MyPlate

Dietary recommendations shifted. MyPlate represents our current understanding of how nutrition affects health.

MyPlate addresses many of the pyramids flaws. It gives vegetables more of a share than grains. Fats no longer occupy a tiny space at the top, and dairy has a space next to the plate. MyPlate designs meals like this:

  • One half of your plate should be produce
  • A quarter of your plate should be complex carbohydrates
  • Protein finishes off the last quarter

The Bottom Line

MyPlate gets you closer to a balanced diet than the pyramid did. However, remember your plate might look different than someone else's. Focus on fresh produce paired with lean protein and whole grains. And don't forget about healthy fats and dairy.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Flowery Branch, Ga.

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