Food Pyramid Explanation – Should You Follow It?

food plate

There are many food pyramid explanations. When we talk about health, we think of a food pyramid that guide us through everyday food consumption. Today we know many food pyramid explanations that help us to feed properly. It helps us to eat different types of food in suitable amount through the day.

In this article, we will learn about USDA food pyramid and also some other alternative food pyramids. Nevertheless, we know food pyramids from all over the world – Chinese, Poland, Slovenian, German, French, etc.

The Origins Of Food Pyramid

Let us briefly look on the history of food pyramid guidelines.

First origins of food pyramid were presented by United States of Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the late 1980’s. An agriculture chemist Wilbur Olin Atwater is known for his studies of human nutrition and his Atwater system. He also wrote a first dietary guideline.

  • 1902 – Published a USDA Farmer’s Bulletin by Atwater
  • 1917 – Appearance of first USDA food guide
  • 1943 – National Wartime Nutrition Guide
  • 1946 – National Nutrition Guide
  • 1977 – Dietary goals for the United States
  • 1992 – USDA Food Pyramid (based on Sweden Food Pyramid)
  • 2005 – MyPyramid nutrition guide
  • 2011 – MyPlate – current nutrition guide

For more nutrition advice check the USDA booklet.

Importance Of Food Pyramid For Obesity 

Obesity in America started to raise since the 1960’s. As agriculture and production of nutrition changed, the USDA nutritionists tried to find the right nutrition guide for American people at that time.

Food pyramid guide was developed to help people to choose a healthy way of living. The researchers followed the American’s consumption of food, their lifestyle, food nutrients and also changes in food production.

The Criticism Of USDA Food Pyramid

Many doctors and nutritionists criticize USDA Food Pyramid. Dr. Walter Willet says that food pyramid is wrong and that it hurts waistline and health. He criticizes it because USDA does not comply latest food research. He also mentioned that the organization is helping its client – U.S. agricultural industry. He presented his food pyramid that offers a better and long life.

Some criticize it because it doesn’t apply to ethnic and cultural groups. The other concern is that foods that are recommended by USDA may be high in fat and sugar. There was also a complaint that food pyramid focuses too much on foods of animal origin and too little on vegetable food.

Denise Minger is an author of Death by Food Pyramid book. She talks about two sides of USDA. On the one hand, USDA is encouraging health. But on the other hand, USDA’s purpose is to help the agriculture of United States.

In her book she talks about these wrongly asserts:

• saturated fat clogs your arteries
• whole grains are heart-healthy
• low-fat dairy makes your bones strong
• white meat is better than red
• vegetable oils are healthier than butter
• high-cholesterol foods cause heart disease

Alternative Food Pyramids For All People

The USDA Food Pyramid isn’t the only one to show us the right way of food consumption. We must take into considoration that USDA Food Pyramid was made for Americans based on their lifestyle, consumption habits, and other environmental factors.

We must also think of vegetarians and other people whose nutrition habits are different than others (ethnical and religious based) and for them USDA Food Pyramid may not be appropriate. All over the world national institutions tried to make a food pyramid that will be suited for their citizens. In next section you will find food pyramids that present their perspective.

The Healing Foods Pyramid™

The Healing Foods Pyramid™ was made in 2005 and updated in 2009 by University of Michigan, specifically by Monica Myklebust, M.D., and Jenna Wunder, M.P.H., R.D. The main point of this food pyramid is to eat balanced food that heals and nurtures.

They have made a food pyramid from 9 categories starting with water at the bottom. The University of Michigan also recommends which food type is better to be consumed daily, weekly and optional.

The Healing Foods Pyramid emphasizes:

• Healing foodshealing foods pyramid
Foods that are known to contribute to your health.
• Plant-based choices
Minimally processed plant foods that are known for their health benefits.
• Variety and balance
Whole grains, healthy fats, and a colorful array of fruits and vegetables every day.
• Support of a healthful environment
Foods that have been produced without harming our planet.
• Mindful eating
We should savor, enjoy, and focus on what we eat.

»The foods we choose to eat are essential to how we care for ourselves. In choosing the healing foods on this pyramid, each one of us contributes to our health.«

Power Plate

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, doctors and dieticians recommend a healthy alternative to USDA Food Pyramid – a Power Plate. It is a user-friendly graphic that emphasizes low-fat vegetarian foods.

The Power Plate is based on colorful food and includes four groups: fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. Their focus is on colorful plates rather than on counting calories or serving sizes.

food pyramid explanations
“Fill your plate with a variety of whole grains, legumes, and plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits for a powerfully healthy diet. There is no need for animal-derived products in the diet, and you’re better off without them. Be sure to include a reliable source of vitamin B12, such as any common multiple vitamin or fortified foods.”

Men’s Fitness Food Pyramid

A popular fitness magazine – Men’s Fitness has criticized the USDA Food Pyramid because of some government’s recommendations. They do not agree with 11 servings of carbs a day and limiting consumption of eggs and meat to three servings. For them, it is also not appropriate to say that the potato is a vegetable.

fat loss pyramidI can relate to that. Think of a person who hears this claim. Because vegetables are healthy, he or she could consume too much of potato, thinking it is good for their bodies.

We must also look how people prepare a potato. They should give some additional explanation and not to mislead people.

Men’s Fitness says that USDA Food Pyramid addressed average Americans.

This average American doesn’t want to be fat, but he still is not in a great shape. So Men’s Fitness introduced their Food Pyramid.

The Men’s Fitness Food Pyramid is an easy visual guide to food consumption. Its purpose is to have a good performance for physique enhancement and optimal health. They introduced two food pyramids. One pyramid is for fat-loss, and the other is for muscle gain.

Some recommendationsmuscle gain pyramid

• Think regarding macronutrients as well as calories

• Measure your proteins, carbs and fat regarding your body weight

• Make adjustments and find your proper amount of food types for your body

MyPlate For Older Adults

Scientists of Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center of Aging presented MyPlate for Older Adults at Trufts University.

It corresponds with MyPlate. It was created by Lichenstein and Helen Rasmussen, Ph.D., RD, senior research dietician at the USDA HNRCA.

The main difference is that this food pyramid includes and highlights activities.

• Bright-colored vegetables such as carrots and broccoli.

• Deep-colored fruit such as berries and peaches.foodplate for older people
• Whole, enriched and fortified grains and cereals such as brown rice and 100% whole wheat bread.
• Low- and non-fat dairy products such as yogurt and low-lactose milk.
• Dry beans and nuts, fish, poultry, lean meat and eggs.
• Liquid vegetable oils, soft spreads low in saturated and trans fat, and spices to replace salt.
• Fluids such as water and fat-free milk.
• Physical activity such as walking, resistance training and light cleaning.

“Although calorie needs decline with age due to a slow-down in metabolism and physical activity, nutritional requirements remain the same or in some cases increase,” explains Alice H. Lichtenstein, Dsc, senior scientist and director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA.

MyPlate for Older Adults provides examples of foods that contain high levels of vitamins and minerals per serving and are consistent with the federal government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

It recommends limiting foods high in trans and saturated fats, salt and added sugars, and eating more whole grains. MyPlate for Older Adults is intended to be a guide for healthy, older adults who are living independently and looking for examples of good food choices and physical activities.

Food Pyramid Explanation – Bottom Line

Nowadays, we have many versions of healthy food pyramids represented of nutritionists, dieticians, and researchers. Every food pyramid has its pros and cons. So, what is the best nutrition guide to choose?

You will not get an answer by any of those food pyramids that we mentioned here. The answer is simple. Find your consumption pattern that fits you. It is no need to follow any of these or other (national) nutrition guides. Think, listen to your body and do a research of your own.

The goal is to find your way of nutrition that will serve you and your body the best.