What is the USDA Food Group Pyramid?
In 1992, dietary education was formed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with the Food Group Pyramid, which is a graphical depiction that summed up dietary advice in one simple picture. Most licensed doctors, dietitians, and other professionals considered this advice to be the gold standard which made it the most widely recognized nutrition guideline in the world.
Though the Food Group Pyramid intended to help Americans make wiser dietary choices, its recommendations did more damage than good. Obesity and chronic diseases were a result from the bad advice given by the USDA decades ago, and Americans are still making horrific dietary choices and paying the price for their health today.
Anyone who has a body mass index of 30.5 percent or higher is considered obese. In 1990, 10 states had a prevalence of obesity less than 10 percent. In 2018, the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) declared that the median for all 50 states is 42.4 percent, and 9.3 percent are severely obese. In addition, 35 percent of Americans are overweight and making a path towards obesity.
What are the Guidelines of the USDA Food Group Pyramid?
The USDA Food Group Pyramid included six basic food groups with daily recommendations of servings.
Why is the USDA Food Group Pyramid Flawed?
Since 1992, the USDA Food Group Pyramid has changed tremendously. As you'll see in the three models below, the USDA has presented different models since 1992 with recommendation changes for food groups and serving size. A food group is a collection of foods sharing similar nutritional properties such as protein, dairy, vegetables, fruits, grains, and fats.
FLAWS OF THE 1992 FOOD GROUP PYRAMID PORTRAIT
A nutrition guideline can be a great educational tool, but unfortunately the USDA dietary guideline of 1992 was greatly flawed. Its widespread adoption has contributed to an overweight and obese America.
Too many grains were recommended. Breads, cereals, rice, and pastas were touted as the healthiest foods. While certain whole grains are beneficial for health, refined grains have proven to have negative effects on body weight.
Dietary fats were vilified. Fats were considered evil no matter what type. They were also categorized with sweets such as candy, cookies, cake, and ice cream. Though trans-fats have been proven to be a health risk, the USDA never prohibited pre-packaged foods which is a culprit for this type of fat. In fact, trans-fats are linked to insulin resistance and obesity. Yet, their limitation on Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats is daunting as studies show that Omega-3 is extremely beneficial for weight loss and numerous bodily functions.
Serving sizes were not defined. Since no serving sizes were given, individuals had to interpret this themselves. This placed individuals at risk for eating too much or too little.
PITFALLS OF THE 2005 MY PYRAMID MODEL
Through the next several years, scientific research would strongly support a diet with more dietary fats and limited refined carbohydrates. Because of this, the USDA revised their nutrition guidelines and renamed it My Pyramid in 2005.
Compared to the original rule, My Pyramid contained half the grains. Dietary fats became a healthy food group, and fruit juices were also de-emphasized. Actual volume and weight for food servings were also included. These were great improvements to the 1992 pyramid, though imperfections remained.
WEAKNESSES OF THE 'CHOOSE MY PLATE' DIAGRAM
Six years later, the USDA triangular food group pyramid was replaced with the My Plate model in 2011. It is a diagram of a dinner plate split into four uneven quadrants. Half the plate recommends vegetables and fruits, while the other half suggests grains and proteins (with a larger emphasis on grains). A cup to the upper right-hand side of the plate represents the need for milk. Unfortunately, this model also fails in its recommendations.
Though the My Plate model provides a simpler diagram for an individual to use, it still fell somewhat short of the mark. It fails to educate individuals on nutrient-dense wholefoods versus processed and refined food items. With a population at risk for intolerances and allergies to milk, the model doesn’t provide an alternative for dairy either. Nor does it provide nutrition information relating to activity level or goals for altering body composition (weight loss or weight gain).
Overcoming USDA Damage...
Though the USDA made great strides to improve their nutrition guidelines over the years, unfortunately much damage has already been done. American consumers had become accustomed to the original dietary principles, and these precepts have been passed down to newer generations. It's now up to you to figure out the best foods for an optimal wellness.
*** You may want to read my article What are Ketones and Will They Really Reduce Body Fat? as it does provide guidelines for a healthy diet.