Sunday, June 12, 2011

Choose My Plate - The New Pyramid

by Kris Pitcher

Since as early as 1916 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been helping us make healthy food choices. Their initial campaign, "Food for Young Children" aimed to establish guidance based on food groups and household measures. The focus was on "protective foods".

In the 1940s A Guide to Good Eating introduced the basic seven (food groups). It created a foundational diet for nutrient adequacy. It included the daily number of servings needed from each group. It was considered complex, and did lack specific serving sizes. I think butter was it's own food group. No joke!

From 1956 to 1970 the USDA brought us Food for Fitness, A Daily Food Guide. This simplified nutrients into four food groups, gave specific amounts from each, but didn't give guidance on fats, sugars, or exactly how many calories we should eat.

In 1979 we were introduced to the Hassle-Free Daily Food Guide. That sounds good. It was developed after the 1977 Dietary Goals for the U.S. were released, and did in fact include a 5th food group highlighting the need to moderate fats, sweets and alcohol.

You might remember the Food Wheel: A Pattern for Daily Food Choices which came out in 1984. It included both nutrient adequacy and moderation goals. The wheel contained 5 food groups, which later formed the basis for the Food Guide Pyramid. Three calorie levels were provided,

Next, the 1992 Food Guide Pyramid. We all remember this one. Well, we certainly remember the 12 servings of grains at the bottom right? It was developed using consumer research to bring awareness to the new food patterns. It did include goals for both nutrient adequacy and moderation, and focused on variety and proportion. It included a range of servings across three calorie levels. (We weren't all supposed to eat 12 servings of grains after all.)

In 2005, MyPyramid Food Guidance System came out, which included 12 calorie levels. Twelve. It was a simplified graphic illustration with a ramped up web based support. It added a band for daily physical activity. The graphic had a person stepping up the pyramid.

Welcome to the new USDA guidelines and graphic! MyPlate. It's a different shape to help grab our attention, and the icon is designed to be a reminder of healthy living. Their website continues to provide lots of great tools, menus, tips, recipes, and guidelines.

We may be back to simpler times with MyPlate. Five food groups, and a visual we can connect with should help us make good choices. On the other hand, I'm not sure if we've come very far in 95 years...

I hope you'll take a look at the ChooseMyPlate web site and share it with others. Having access to information is key to success!

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