What About The USDA Food Guide?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed the first food groups originally to educate Americans on the appropriate use of food to achieve health with the particular interest in overcoming malnutrition, which was prevalent in this country a century ago.

Putting the USDA in charge of dietary advice is in some respects like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse,” Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) told Congress Daily.

In the beginning, there were five food groups: fruits and vegetables, meats, cereals and other starchy foods, sweets, and fatty foods.  The food group approach changed dramatically through the years due to the fact that its recommendations meant greater sales for agricultural products. For example…

  • In the 1930’s there were 12 food groups
  • During World War II there were eight
  • Later, guidelines promoted the Basic Seven food groups
  • and then the basic four

In the mid 1970’s obesity and diet related illnesses had overtaken malnutrition as a public health concern and the Food Guide Pyramid was created.  Decreased emphasis on sweets, fatty foods, dairy products, and meats brought protests from their makers.  The pyramid was finally completed and released to the public.

However, it really was not well suited to everyone.  The food groups and proportions were typically based on a healthy, young, male adult’s requirement.  Not many of us fit into that specific category!

In all actuality, the government’s guide has almost nothing to do with sound nutritional advice and everything to do with appeasing influential food producers.

Read “Food Politics” by Marion Nestle to fully understand the situation. For example, in the previous Food Guide Pyramid, finalized in 1992, the beef industry played an aggressive role to make sure the guide did not recommend that people eat “less red meat.” Instead, the guide was modified to encourage “increased consumption of lean meats,” which is not the intended, scientifically supported health advice of “eat less red meat.”

But, with much ado, the USDA recently replaced the old Food Guide Pyramid and with MyPyramid, a new symbol and “interactive food guidance system.”

This new symbol doesn’t offer enough information to help you make intelligent choices about your diet and long-term health. It also still recommends foods that could be detrimental to your health in the quantities included in MyPyramid.

Consider members picked by the USDA for this task of creating the new food guide pyramid, which included: the International Food Information Council; Campbell Soup Company; Kraft; Procter & Gamble; Kellogg Company; American Egg Board; the Peanut Institute; National Dairy Board; American Cocoa Research Institute; Sugar Association; Warner-Lambert; National Dairy Council; and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

Is it any wonder what is recommended as a healthy diet by those so heavily involved in the highly profitable refined food industry?

The pyramid is also even more vague. For instance, “Choose fats wisely for good health,” and “Choose carbohydrates wisely for good health” now replace previous statements that gave more specific advice, such as “Choose a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and moderate in total fat,” and “Choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars.”

However, MyPyramid supposedly depicts the nutrient-dense super foods that Americans should consume on a daily basis – 3 servings of lowfat or fat free milk, cheese or yogurt; 3 servings of whole grains; 4 1/2 cups fruits and vegetables; and 5.5 ounces of lean meat or beans. It also stresses the importance of daily physical activity.

A children’s version of MyPyramid was also released later. You can view it here.

What do you really need to eat to stay healthy? Let’s see…