Say Goodbye To The Food Pyramid

The U.S. government tired of the Food Pyramid, calling it confusing and hard to understand. Earlier today they released a new visual aide to help the ignorant populace get a grasp on healthy eating — My Plate. As a visual aid, I agree that the plate is more helpful. It works. It helps the average person see the message at a glance. Too bad it’s still the same old dietary guidelines which made us all fat and terminally ill.

In a recent article in the Wise Traditions journal, Adele Hite shares “A Tale of Two Breakfasts.” She compares a breakfast that’s compliant with USDA dietary guidelines with one that complies with the Weston A Price Foundation’s Healthy 4 Life dietary guidelines.

Her summary?

If we want to fix the obesity crisis, the USDA tells us, it’s up to us: just eat less and move more. But that’s not what the USDA really wants.

Due to their own policies, food prices and production at the farm level are both flat. The only way to “grow” the agricultural sector is to increase processing. This is where the money is. Look closely at the “eat less” recommendations in the guidelines; they are a veiled promotion of foods the USDA want us to eat more of.

“Fear-the-fat” messages that are not based in science steer us away from minimally processed foods like eggs and meat. Instead, we are encouraged to buy enormously profitable, fortified and enriched products that are virtually devoid of nutrition until they are transformed by the miracles of modern chemistry to meet the USDA’s definition of “healthy.”

The USDA doesn’t really want us to “eat less and move more.” They want us to “eat less and buy more.” [emphasis mine]

Adele’s USDA-compliant breakfast of instant oatmeal, fruit juice, and soy yogurt cost $2.04/serving. Her Healthy-4-Life breakfast of farm-fresh sausage, eggs, and cheese cost a mere $0.93/serving by comparison. Both breakfasts had the same number of calories: 410. But years of eating one will make you fat, while years of eating the other will keep you lean, healthy, and strong.

I’ll give you one guess to figure out which is which.

In a 2010 article published in the journal Nutrition, Adele Hite and others criticized the USDA’s dietary guidelines as being non-evidence based.

The report of Hite and others notes that over the last thirty years, as obesity rates have doubled, average daily calories from fatty foods like meats, eggs and nuts has increased only 20 calories per day, while average daily calories from flour and cereal products has increased by nearly twenty times that amount. In other words, the American diet has shifted in the direction recommended since the 1977 dietary goals to reduce overall fat and saturated fat in the diet. Total and saturated fat intakes have decreased as a percentage of calories whereas carbohydrate intake has increased. (source)

But wait! Don’t the USDA’s dietary guidelines recommend we eat less? Adele Hite’s report proves we’re eating more. See the paradox? When we eat a low-fat diet per their guidelines, we’re simply not sated. We can do it, but we compensate by eating more refined grains and sugars and snacking often.

The USDA’s new My Plate visual is meant to make it easier to comply with their dietary guidelines. Heaven keep us from that fate! The evidence shows that the U.S. population has complied with the government’s dietary guidelines, but rather than making us healthier, eating this way is making us sick.

The one good thing about the USDA’s My Plate? The visual reminder that fruits and vegetables should make up the bulk of our diet. At least half the plate! That’s good, right? Just let me cook those green beans in bacon grease, mash my potatoes with lots of butter and cream, and eat my salad with a homemade, naturally-fermented buttermilk ranch dressing.

I personally love the Nutrient-Dense Food Pyramid courtesy of Sandrine Hahn of Nourishing Our Children, highlighting where our actual food priorities need to be.

Maybe Ms. Hahn will create a new “plate” visual to counter the new USDA My Plate? I’d love to see it!

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While I adore hats & happy skirts, nothing inspires me quite like geeking out over nutrition & sustainable agriculture.
My name is Kristen Michaelis, author extraordinaire and rebel with a cause.

Comments

  1. Ron Lennex via Facebook says

    I think that I don’t need the government making any recommendations as to what I should eat.

  2. Lori Iversen via Facebook says

    Jesus. Why are we spending bazillions of dollars on this nonsense? Michael Pollan already solved the whole problem: eat good food, not too much, mostly plants.

  3. Alicia Milan via Facebook says

    My only opinion is – how are we to take anything they say to heart, the FDA clearly does not have our best interests in mind anyways, look at the BPA, food dyes,preservatives and junk they allow in our foods… How can anyone actually believe in them.

  4. Debbie Nielsen LaFreniere via Facebook says

    reminds me of something from the 50s only with more updated graphics.

    • Dana says

      I actually liked the four food groups thing they used to do. I have these recipe cards that date from when I was a teenager (I’m 37) and they included a food info section that included a card about the four food groups. It kind of amazes me how much more sensible the advice was back then even if it wasn’t totally on the money.

  5. Tara Fettig via Facebook says

    c’mon….I am NOT THAT STUPID! There was nothing at all confusing about the Food Guide Pyramid….I just happen to be a THINKING adult who realized years ago it is WRONG. What an insult.

  6. Kevin Smith via Facebook says

    Ultimately, the only people who even noticed are the ones laughing at the attempt. Americans aren’t obese because they couldn’t “understand” the food pyramid… they are obese because they don’t care. And they then eat McDonalds, Dorito’s, and ready to eat microwave crap. That, and everything off the shelf in most stores is processed to death.

    • Dana says

      People are obese because people will eat what is available, and too much that is available is stuff that will kill you slowly.

      It is a matter of people being wired as hunter-gatherers when all the available food to be gathered has suddenly turned to poison.

      This is one instance where I would support a ban on junk or a complete restructuring of our food system whether people want to go along with it or not. Because people are not going to suddenly evolve with the time and the situation. Evolution doesn’t work that way. Those of us who understand what’s going on and are fighting it are like this because we’re fringe weirdos in the first place. Most people do not possess the tendency to be fringe weirdos and they’re the ones who will get sick and die.

      And it’s not fair to *expect* them to be fringe weirdos. Both being mainstream and being fringe have their places in a social species. The mainstreamers are the “conservatives” maintaining a culture while the fringies are the outcasts who go off and start new ones. You can’t kill the mainstreaming tendency in people without also killing part of what makes us human.

      It’s the industrial food system that needs fighting and that is stupid and greedy, not the people being victimized by them. I’m not saying that people are stupid or weak, just that it’s not fair to expect them to go against their own instincts. Most people don’t have time to pursue this stuff and learn all about it–you notice most of the bloggers on this topic are either doctors, college students, or housewives, right? We evolved in a situation where either something was good for you or it killed you. Period. There was none of this in-between stuff that took 20 years to poison you. And if the food making machines and the greedy CEOs weren’t there, there still wouldn’t be these kinds of foods. The machines and their owners being the problem, that’s what needs solving.

      Even if you could argue we didn’t evolve, the fact of the matter is we started out as hunter-gatherers and even when we developed grain agriculture, which wasn’t so hot for our health either, we had long enough before the advent of food factories that we figured out how to make grains less hazardous. The advent of the food industry, among other factors I won’t go into here (this is too long already!), has undone centuries and centuries of careful experimentation and learning. We are once again in the position of just picking the food off its source–a shelf now rather than a fruit. This is the problem, now what do we do? Quit calling people names and start looking at the problem critically.

  7. Ron Lennex via Facebook says

    “If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

  8. Nikki Tucker via Facebook says

    Interesting…but like my 15 yr old daughter just asked, where are the oils? The healthy fats?

  9. Kevin Smith via Facebook says

    Nikki, maybe your 15 year old should be appointed Secretary of Agriculture. She’d do a better job :)

  10. Heather Frambach via Facebook says

    Aw, it was kinda fun to say “the food pyramid is upside down!” which is slightly more compelling than “my plate is…stupid!”

  11. says

    They’ve worked so hard through the Dept of Education to make us idiots that I think they figure we need stupid visuals from the FDA…. Hey, as long as they’re spending our tax money wisely.

  12. says

    The plate design is better than the pyramid; closer to the original vision of the first guidelines before the food industry messed with it.

    The suggestions are more nonsense without any real scientific support, as is usual for the USDA

    I watched the press conference live and blogged on it here:

    http://behealthynow.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/usdas-2010-diet-guidelines-nutritional-nonsense/

    Really, having a meal like that, esp. based on the poor quality standards of the USDA, is a wonderful recipe for diabetes.

  13. Tanisha Waggoner via Facebook says

    You know…looking at the grain and fruit portions and the lack of good fats, this plate looks like “How to Be Fat” 101.

  14. says

    You’re so right Kevin Smith! It wasn’t that people don’t understand the pyramid…people just didn’t pay attention to it! When I was learning it in school, grains were the foundation….pasta, bread, CARBS, STARCH, foods that turn to insulin in your body! I have recently cut out those foods from my diet and in 3 weeks I lost 12 pounds!

  15. Kimberly says

    I’d replace that ‘grain’ section with dairy, and kick the little plate off the whole picture, lol. Maybe make that fruit section a bit smaller, and the veggie a proportionately larger.

    • Dana says

      Heck with that, I’d replace most of the fruit with meat and animal fat. That’s what’s REALLY missing here.

  16. Kimberly says

    Oh, I was thinking the ‘proteins’ as ‘meat’. Okay, well, I don’t agree we need so much protein, but more the fats that come with the proteins. Yeah, much too simplistic. I like your pyramid MUCH better, albeit mine would not have the grain top, lol.

    • Dana says

      If you’re not growing the vegetables in your own backyard or purchasing them frozen, you’re wasting your time eating them as anything but a condiment. Buying them local might come in a decent second to growing them yourself if you can be absolutely sure they haven’t sat in a storehouse for the last however many months (as is sometimes the case with roots, tubers, and apples).

      People don’t appreciate how much nutrition a plant food can lose in storage, and how much nutrition an animal food retains. If eating more plants was going to solve our health problems, we should be thriving on grains.

  17. says

    In the REAL FOOD pyramid, I can’t tell what the top image is-anyone able to clue me in? Otherwise I love the REAL FOOD one, but whatever the USDA says is biased toward big ag/$$ so not trustworthy anyway.

    • KristenM says

      It’s the benign grains and pseudo grains, like rice. When prepared well, these foods provide a good source of resistant starch. Notice, though, that they’re categorized as the least nutrient-dense of all foods.

  18. says

    At Kelly- it’s “fats, oils (are they saying oils aren’t fats?), and sweets”. They’re right about the sweets part. No one can be wrong ALL the time. :-D

    Interesting- if I actually believed in the food pyramid, I would prefer this My Plate thing. It just seems like it would be easier to remember, and I can see these My Plates going on sale for dieters. Maybe someone can come out with a My Paleo Plate or My Primal Plate? :-)

  19. says

    We don’t need the govt to tell us what to eat. Rather, we need to listen to our bodies. Lobbyists have a different agenda than I do – I want to regain my natural health and ease, and they are bottom-lining it. Recently I did a 21-day cleanse that put me back on track and taught me a world of information about WHY I eat – which woke me up. Now I listen and eat whatever I feel, literally, like eating. Most of the time, that’s vegetables, beans and some grains. Other times it’s fish or fruit, and even ice cream or chocolate once in a while. No deprivation, a lot of raw and fresh. I’ve never felt better!
    My most recent blog post: The Most Radical Thing I Ever Did: a 21-Day Cleanse http://offpeaklife.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/the-most-radical-thing-i-ever-did-a-21-day-cleanse/

    • KristenM says

      Kellie — The only problem with this kind of advice is that processed foods are specifically designed in laboratories to satisfy all the “triggers” of food desirability. Every thing from color to texture and flavor is meant to please our palettes and keep us wanting more. If you’re eating these foods AND listening to your body, what you’ll hear is a whole bunch of “feed me more of that fake processed food sweet stuff!” So, a BIG CAVEAT to the whole “listen to your body” approach is that you stick to only REAL FOOD, traditionally prepared. If you do that, listening to your body will not likely lead you astray (unless, say, you’ve got some sort of metabolic disorder already).

      • says

        That’s why I stick to real food! (except for the occasional square of high percentage chocolate… :) And by listening to my body, I mean my body, not what’s being triggered – not the emotional body, the needy body, the addict body. I listen to my need for carrots or kale or lentil soup… I listen for what nutrients my body is asking for, not to my cravings (which have gone softly into the background, although have not totally disappeared). What I learned through the cleanse is that I’ve increased my ability to truly know what I need by becoming more sensitized, by quieting fears and insecurities that cause us all to eat inappropriately.

        It’s like learning the difference between listening to your gut, your intuition and being able to tell the difference between worry or anxiety and our wise inner voice that never lets us down. A better listening, more attuned.

        Thanks for your response! Stay renegade!

  20. says

    Amen. It’s a crying shame that the FDA can’t break the stranglehold that big ag has on their various pronouncements. Absent any real top-down change, it’s up to us to spread the word and be active locally to get more real food and knowledge into our neighbors’ hands.

  21. says

    I confess, when the kids were little, I brought home one of those 3-divided takeout plastic plates. I pasted pictures of veggies in one hole, split the other hole in half: half for fruit and half for grains, and put photos of proteins WITH FATS in the third section. I also cut out a photo of a glass of milk that was so orange (from its cream) that it almost looked like an orange milkshake and put that on the “tray” I made to serve as a picture frame. That dumb thing hung on the wall for years. But now that the kids are almost all teens, they fill their plates almost that exact same way. I hope parents realize how valuable their leadership is…FAR more so than government or media, if they allow it to be.

    • Hayley says

      Oh, but don’t you know? Parents aren’t capable of raising their children. That’s why the government needs to raise them for the parents. /sarcasm

  22. Nance says

    People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to our health, and are healed by the health industry, which pays no attention to our food.
    ~Wendell Berry

    Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

  23. says

    The government has no idea what the hell they are doing. It is about the money and its clear. That’s all they care about. They could careless about your health or mine. Its ridiculous and makes me furious. It also motivates me to get the word out about whole food damnit.

  24. says

    While my breakfast is nearly always sausage, eggs and cheese, I have to question whether it would cost 93 cents a serving. The price of well-made sausage and raw milk cheese is not low enough for this kind of cost, so unless the serving is one ounce of each, I have to question that figure.

  25. says

    Why does no one see what I see when I look at My Plate?? I see the exact proportions for burgers and fries! Your burger patty is on the bottom right, your fries and lettuce are bottom left, your tomatoes are top left, your buns are top right and your American cheese is on the little dairy plate. And they wonder why Americas are fat.

  26. says

    I’m dismayed about the lack fats on this new “My Plate”, as well as the lack of information about what types of foods are better for us – properly prepared grains, nuts, legumes, vegetables, and the source of our meats/eggs/poultry/produce. But then again, what exactly was I expecting, this is the U.S. government.

    Oh goody…now we can integrate the My Plate recommendations with the NutriSmart edible RFID tags that will be placed directly in the toxic food we’re told to eat (replacing bar codes), and can actually tell our refrigerators when our food has gone bad and has to be thrown out, and also communicate to our ovens how long our food needs to be cooked. The new Smart Plate can be used in tandem with the new USDA My Plate recommendations, which works as an invisible diet management system. This amazing system tells us where our food comes from, ingredients, and will be helpful to help us stop eating things that might harm us (like for food allergies). Thanks to these brilliant ideas and advances in technology, we won’t have to use our brains to think anymore, at all! Here is the video….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3_EjOecfOA

  27. says

    Hold on a sec. I get what you’re saying about what kinds of foods make us fat and what kinds make us healthy and strong. But the “my plate” diagram doesn’t say what *kinds* of protein, or grain, or dairy, to eat. It only talks about the *proportions* of those groups to one another. Do you disagree about the proportions represented on the plate, or just about the kinds of foods they recommend you fill those proportions with? Educate me.

    • KristenM says

      Elisabeth, if you go to the government website, you’ll find the following, same old, terribly bad dietary advice:
      1. Choose skim or 1% milk.
      2. Eat a low-fat diet, particularly reducing saturated fats in favor of refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
      3. Eat grains (no info about how to prepare them so they’re actually digestible), and when you do, only half of them need to be whole (the rest are refined).

      The low fat diet is perhaps the worst of the lot. For more on that, check out some of the related posts at the bottom of the post.

      I’ve really got no issue with proportions, other than to point out that healthy traditional peoples ate a wide variety of different proportions. For example, the Iniut ate 80% animal fat, while the kitavans ate 80% carbs (mostly in the form of sweet potatoes). Proportions don’t matter as much as sticking to non-industrial, REAL food.

  28. Demolishun says

    Alleluia!!!

    Two sources of information for anything that should be shut off: the television and the government. The first repeats nonsense to you in the form of images so that you believe the tripe and the other, well, they do the same thing.

    The phrase that will destroy your life: “I deserve to have it now.”

  29. Danette says

    People did not become obese because of the food pyramid. If they actually FOLLOWED the food pyramid, including the portion sizes that they should- they would not be obese. Reality is, that overall volume of calories really DOES matter and that’s what makes you fat or not- consuming more -of anything!- than you need.

    Also: Our bodies are designed in a way that makes it easiest on them to burn sugars. Carbohydrate-rich foods are good for us, and are not the enemy. Quantity is still important to recognize though. Most people don’t realize how small a serving of carbohydrates is- 1oz is a serving. 1/2c of pasta. Average serving sizes are about four or five times that much. A bagel is 3-5oz all by itself. And the 7-11 servings of grains suddenly don’t look so humongous. The food pyramid was probably hard to understand because it made grains look a lot bigger than everything else. If you actually open your eyes and look at that food plate…. it’s not emphasizing grains as much as encouraging moderation.

    atkins-style diets are bad for you, flood your body with ketones, and make you sick, plunging your system into a state of ketosis. They can also be bad for your kidneys, which have to deal with all the extra protein floating around in your blood… especially if you’ve got diabetes or something, which makes it hard on them to begin with.

    Sure, sausage eggs and cheese are good foods that contain nutrition- and maybe they’re cheaper than storebought carbohydrate laden foods. But your “usda compliant” breakfast is flawed for comparison… because you used INSTANT oatmeal- which is significantly more expensive than the rolled oats that would make an appropriate comparison to your fresher ingredients. My own standard is a serving of oatmeal from rolled oats, with an apple and some cranberries chopped into it, some cinnamon, honey, and a glass of milk.

    • damaged justice says

      Wow, I think that’s every bit of conventional anti-fat, pro-carb, convensional “wisdom” nonsense, all in one post. Amazing!

      • says

        Darn straight. Once I started doing actual research on the body’s reaction to macronutrients, I learned quickly not to parrot conventional “wisdom”.

  30. redraven says

    O MY CUPCAKES!!
    I BECAME A DIABETIC OVER TWO YEARS AGO, AND I STUDIED HOW TO EAT AS A DIABETIC, AND THEIR PYRAMID I FEEL IS THE PROPER WAY TO EAT, AND ALSO KEEP YOUR BLOOD SUGAR BALANCED. I DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL, SO I DO SWEETS, BUT THE CARBS ARE MY ENEMIES, NOT THE CANDY, WOW, HOW WEIRD IS THAT.
    ANYWAY, I THOUGHT WE WERE GOING TO STRIVE TO LESS GOVERNMENT IN OUR LIVES, AND NOW THEY ARE IN MY KITCHEN…GET OUT, SHOOO FLY…REDRAVEN, BLESSINGS.

  31. says

    There are a few things that I take offense to in the actual information over at the myplate.gov website. First is the highly inaccurate statement that butter contains no nutritional value other than fat. At the same time, they’re touting soy and canola oil. Next is the recommendation to eat only lean meat and low-fat dairy, as whole milk and whole animals allegedly contribute to cardiovascular disease. Finally, while type II diabetes is running rampant in this country due to the consumption of refined grains and sugars, nowhere in the section on grains is there any mention of this. It is easy to see that the USDA recommendations are biased.

  32. mel says

    what gives these clowns the right to tell us how to eat. Its not about a caring central government. Its a nanny state determined to destroy our health.
    They are criminals against humanity.

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