As early as 1916, Americans have been guided by the government and medical specialists on what to eat and how much to eat. Several formats eventually lead up to the food guide pyramid in 1992. The concept of physical activity was added in 2005.
The USDA 1992 pyramid that we all remember, put “bread, cereal, rice & pasta” at the bottom with 6-11 servings daily. Next up, are vegetables (3-5 servings) and Fruit (2-4 servings). Second to the top are “milk, yogurt, and cheese” as well as “meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts” each with a recommendation of 2-3 daily servings. At the top: fats- “use sparingly.”
In 2005, the USDA retired this guide and updated their recommendations by introducing “MyPyramid”, an interactive food guidance system. Although an improvement, MyPyramid still contained flaws and continued to recommend foods that aren’t essential to good health and may even be detrimental in the quantities included in MyPyramid.
The USDA introduced “MyPlate” in 2011-a different shape to grab consumer’s attention.
In 2008, Harvard’s School of Public Health (HSPH) nutrition experts re-created the food pyramid using best available evidence about the links between diet and health. Called “The Healthy Eating Pyramid”, they included daily exercise and weight control. (see illustration)
Here is what the HSPH guidelines recommend: “construct a baseline of regular exercise and controlled portions, then fill your plate with fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grain carbohydrates, and healthy fats and oils. Eat less red meat, refined grains, and sugary drinks. Forget about the numbers and focus on quality. Taking a multi-vitamin can be a good nutrition insurance policy.”
Specific number of daily servings is not included; instead this is left up to the individual and based on their size and activity level. The HSPH is a simple, flexible, general guide about what we should eat when we eat. A healthy diet will contain more foods from the base of the pyramid and fewer from the top, (just like the original pyramid model).
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