Find the Food Pyramid for YOU!
During the turn of the 20th Century the USDA launched their first version of dietary recommendations with the “basic seven” food groups, although it was limited to children alone. By 1956 the seven were narrowed down to the “basic four” to simplify things. The four groups consisted of milk, meat, bread, and produce, and they stuck around until 1992. Yet even this was deemed complicated and the USDA sought out a less wordy tool in the form of the Food Pyramid.
While the pictorial guide to the food groups was new to the US, it originated from a Swiss cookbook author back in 1974. This antiquated idea continues to garner new versions - in fact, I anticipate our own government will release yet another in 2012 based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.
MyPyramid (www.mypyramid.gov ) is the latest and greatest out of the USDA. This personalized approach debuted in 2005 and was created with incredibly advanced technological application in comparison with those before it. The online tool enables users to type in their height, weight, and activity level for the specific dietary recommendations for their lifestyle. The encouraged diet is based on specific amounts from each of six food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, oils (including fish, nuts, avocados, etc.), milk (animal or plant based), and meat/beans. I recall being quite pleased to learn that fatty fish and vegetarian options were highlighted as this was quite uncommon in Pyramid history. MyPyramid is also the first US version to highlight the need for an active lifestyle by incorporating a person climbing the stairs of the pyramid.
While I do adore the interactive approach, the vertical pyramid groups is far more confusing in conveying which food groups should be sought the most or least often. Essentially the pyramid was tipped on its side… perhaps to please the food industry lobbying for their group? In order to learn the dirty details about each food group, you must go ‘inside’ MyPyramid (http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/index.html ).
The Healthy Eating Pyramid (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/pyramid/ ) was developed by Harvard School of Public Health. Why did they create their own version? In their words, USDA Pyramid “recommendations have often been based on out-of-date science and influenced by people with business interests in their messages”. The Healthy Eating Pyramid encourages mostly whole grains and vegetables, with less emphasis on meat, processed grains, sugary drinks, and salt (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/pyramid-full-story/index.html ).
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid (http://www.mediterraneandietinfo.com/Mediterranean-Food-Pyramid.htm ) focuses much less on meat than the USDA versions. The Mediterranean region dines on a diet based largely on plant based meals, although animal-based foods are still enjoyed; including as dairy, fatty fish, and poultry. Meats are listed as well, yet merely as the tiny pyramid peak where added sugars and fats are highlighted in traditional pyramids. At the opposite end of the Pyramid you will find physical activity compiling the entire base! Highlighting the active lifestyle found in the Mediterranean region.
In addition to the activity group, you will find eleven other groups comprising this complicated pyramid. Further subdivided into foods to be consumed daily, weekly, or monthly.
The University of Michigan Healing Pyramid (http://www.med.umich.edu/umim/food-pyramid/ ) is quite similar to the Mediterranean version as it also guides you toward daily, weekly, and monthly recommendations. An immediate difference in the two is found at the base where water is found in place of the physical activity. The next level features fruits and veggies rather than the grains typically encouraged in largest quantities. The tip of the Pyramid showcases lean protein and meat, with only alcohol and sweets in lesser amounts – certainly highlighting the push for a primarily plant-based diet.
This Pyramid also includes tips on how we should select and enjoy our food. Encouraging us to “select foods that have been produced without harming our planet” and eat each choice mindfully. Eating mindfully is seemingly rare in the hectic on-the-go American lifestyle, yet if we are to “truly savor, enjoy, and focus” on the meal or snack before us we may realize that we do not need as much as we may think. Or if nothing else, we might at least remember the pleasure of each bite rather than nearly forgetting the forkfuls we shoveled in as we raced to our next meeting at work…
If you have Diabetes you may be curious to see a Diabetic Pyramid? One did exist at one point; though it is rarely used today (at least among the health professionals I consort with). Today Diabetics are alternatively encouraged to utilize the same Pyramid intended for all Americans and simply count their carbohydrates from each option. For those of you whose curiosity has gotten the best of you, here is the original Diabetic Food Guide Pyramid (http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs//_circulars/CR-631E.pdf). There only two major differences between this and the general Pyramid. First, the cheese has been moved from the dairy group over to the meat group. Second, starchy vegetables such as potatoes and winter squash are moved into the base along with breads and pasta. I encourage you to stick with MyPyramid or if you’re not into the Pyramid, try the “Plate Method” from the American Diabetes Association (http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/create-your-plate/ ).
And the winner is…
There certainly seems to be a plethora of Pyramids available today and with the World Wide Web at your fingertips I am betting you can find even more options out there! Let me know what you find J I would also be interested in hearing which version you find the most (or least) helpful. I certainly know where my heart lies…