History of the Food Guide Pyramid
In 1992 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) replaced the popular concept of four food groups with the Food Guide Pyramid. The new pyramid gave greater prominence to plant foods, stressing that grains, fruits, and vegetables are the basis of a healthy diet. Meat and dairy products were placed further up in the pyramid, to show that people should eat less of these foods.
The food guide pyramid is a guide to filling your plate with the right food proportions. It can help parents set food priorities for their family:
- mostly grains, fruits, and vegetables
- adequate legumes, dairy, fish, poultry, and meat
- fewer fats and sweets
Problems with the food guide pyramid
With so many special interest groups to please – beef and dairy farmers, food processors, consumer groups – compromises are inevitable. While the Food Guide Pyramid helps the consumer make wise choices about the quantity of food to eat and their proper space on the plate, it does not address the quality of the food within each group. Fats are all lumped together, whether they’re saturated, hydrogenated, or not. White bread with minimal fiber holds the same place as the more nutritious whole wheat bread. Meat, poultry, fish, legumes, eggs, and nuts end up in the same box, though their effects on your body are vastly different.
The USDA Food Guide Pyramid stacks up the five food groups in their relative proportions. In the Food Guide Wheel, we have improved the food pyramid by making several changes:
- We not only suggest how much to eat of each food group, but also note which foods within each group are better choices (e.g., “lean meat” rather than “meat” and “whole grains” rather than “grains”).
- We describe not only which foods to eat, but which ones to avoid.
- We give legumes and seafood a place of their own, since they merit ranking near vegetables and fruits.
- We include information on how often to eat certain foods. Grains, vegetables, legumes, dairy products, vegetable oils, and fruits are foods to eat daily; seafood, poultry, and eggs are eaten three times a week; meat is eaten once a week; wine should be consumed in moderation, sweet treats in moderation.
- We include nutritious oils, which contain essential fatty acids, instead of just stating “use oils sparingly.”
- We make soy foods a separate group because of their health-building properties and because they are a healthier protein source than meat and poultry.
- We include only low-fat or nonfat dairy products.
Children can follow the same food wheel guidelines as adults, but with smaller servings. Kid- sized servings are one-third to one-half the size of adult servings. For example, kids should eat half a slice of bread instead of one slice, 1/4 cup of vegetables instead of 1/2 cup, 1/2 ounce of cheese instead of 1 ounce, and one egg instead of two eggs.
Dr. Sears, or Dr. Bill as his “little patients” call him, has been advising busy parents on how to raise healthier families for over 40 years. He received his medical training at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the world’s largest children’s hospital, where he was associate ward chief of the newborn intensive care unit before serving as the chief of pediatrics at Toronto Western Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Toronto. He has served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and University of California: Irvine. As a father of 8 children, he coached Little League sports for 20 years, and together with his wife Martha has written more than 40 best-selling books and countless articles on nutrition, parenting, and healthy aging. He serves as a health consultant for magazines, TV, radio and other media, and his AskDrSears.com website is one of the most popular health and parenting sites. Dr. Sears has appeared on over 100 television programs, including 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, Today, The View, and Dr. Phil, and was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in May 2012. He is noted for his science-made-simple-and-fun approach to family health.