Take A Hike, Food Pyramid!

This morning, the USDA, First Lady Michelle Obama and Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin unveiled the new food icon, called My Plate. This new icon replaces the old USDA Food Pyramid, which had been around in one form or another since 1980. 
The USDA has a long history of steering people in the wrong direction when it come to dietary habits. After President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in the 50’s, they told everyone to stop eating meat to lower their cholesterol. In the 70’s, they recommended that 60% of what you eat be carbohydrates without explaining good versus bad carbs. I remember learning the “4 Food groups” when I was a kid. They were Milk/Dairy, Meats, Fruits/Veggies and Bread. They’ve since revised the Food Pyramid several times (most recent version shown here). ALL of these recommendations and advice were dead (yes, I used that word on purpose) wrong.
Regardless of how you feel about the US Government coming into your kitchen, the fact is that they continue to recommend a diet for people to follow…and some people (including schools) following these recommendations. Let’s be honest, the food pyramid was garbage. It was confusing and no one knew if the proportions were based on mass of food or calories (big difference). It also had a base of grains for the majority of the time it was in existence. Any surprise that the USDA would recommend people eat so many grains?? Either way, I’m glad that it’s gone.
The new recommendations, issued this morning, are shown on a plate. This makes since because most people eat off of a plate, not a pyramid. Here’s what it looks like:

While they don’t give the exact percentages of each category, it looks like about 20% Protein, 30% Grains, 30% Vegetables, 20% Fruit and then a glass of milk or a cup of yogurt. The website that goes with this new plate does a pretty good job and detailing exactly what foods fall into each category. They also talk about empty calories that you get from eating sugary foods and to eat these in moderation.
While I feel like this is a HUGE improvement over the Food Pyramid, I still have some issues with it. Advising people to fill more than a quarter of their plate with grains is a bad call. If you look for more detail on the website, they differentiate between whole and refined grains – telling you to make at least half of your grains whole grains. But looking at this plate, it doesn’t tell me that. I have a problem with white bread and muffins being in the same category as rolled oats and quinoa! Not to mention that consuming this amount of grains and starches will cause problems with blood sugar levels, inflammation, blood pressure and weight gain.
They also don’t show fats anywhere on the plate. Starting about 15 years ago, people began to see the word “fat” as all bad when it comes to food. All fat was considered the cause for weight gain. So what did companies do? They started making “fat free” items and loaded them up with sugar to make them taste the same. I don’t need to go into the problem with that, do I…or with “sugar free” stuff? Good. There are bad fats and good fats. Good fats are Omega 3’s, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. These fats are found in nuts, avocado, olive oil and salmon. Bad fats are saturated and trans fats, found in packaged foods and probably most things you order from a fast food menu. Good fats are a very important part of your diet. They help nutrient absorption, aid in your nervous system function, and help maintain cell membranes. Good fats should take up about 15-20% of your daily diet.

So what would this plate look like if I designed it? Keep in mind, this is for an active person (which everyone should be)!
55% carbohydrates
30% protein
15% from good fats
(% of calories consumed in a day)


5/25/11 Run – Mile Repeats (5.20 miles in 48:36)  
5/25/11: Swim – Train Smart Swim Group (3100m in 1:14:02)
5/26/11: Bike – Zone 2 Spin (22.5 miles in 1:10:00)  
5/27/11 Run – Hill Repeats (2.36 miles in 22:09)  
5/27/11: Swim – Endurance Swim (3504yd in 1:05:32) 
5/28/11: Bike – Endurance Ride (82.9 miles in 4:22:51)   
5/30/11 Run – Recovery Jog (4.32 miles in 36:59) 
5/30/11: Weights – Body Weight Only – 3 sets 
5/31/11: Bike – Recovery Ride (13.0 miles in 45:00)   
5/31/11: Swim – Drills (1056yd in 21:23)
6/1/11 Run – Fartlek with Stairs (3.31 miles in 31:45)
6/1/11: Swim – Train Smart Swim Group (3375m in 1:14:55)
6/2/11: Bike – Sprints (14.0 miles in 40:01) 
6/2/11: Swim – Sprints (1344yd in 37:11)

One Response to “Take A Hike, Food Pyramid!”

  1. Mike June 3, 2011 at 2:16 AM #

    So I need to throw away my pyramid plates and start eating off round plates? Now I’m really confused :-).

    I do like your plate breakdown better. Have you considered emailing the gov website on this? {Insert sarcastic government comment here}

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