Learning About the My Pyramid Food Guidance System

November 12, 2012

Learning About the My Pyramid Food Guidance System

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for putting out free public information about healthy eating. In 2004, the program was revamped under the name My Pyramid or MyPyramid. This was based on the previous USDA food guidance system called the Food Pyramid, which was introduced in 1992. My Pyramid is a more up-to-date version of the Food Pyramid, based on the latest health and nutrition studies.

What Was Wrong With the Old Food Pyramid?

One big advantage of the Food Pyramid program is that it showed visually that a person’s diet should consist of carbohydrate-rich foods like bread and potatoes, fruits and vegetables and not meat, dairy or other foods. These foods were shown to be the base of the pyramid. Above the base in ever decreasing order were dairy products, meats, fish, sweets and cakes. The top of the pyramid was crowned with a bottle of oil to represent fats.

But the original Food Pyramid was based on the assumption that people needed at least 6 servings of carbohydrate-rich foods per day and as little fat as possible. By 2004, medical research showed that people needed far fewer servings of carbohydrates to stay healthy. They also discovered that some fats such as unsaturated fats were much better for maintain healthy diets than saturated fats. A diet that completely eliminated fats was not healthy.

Improvements in My Pyramid

My Pyramid visually shows that not all grains are alike. Food products made with whole grains are preferred to those made with processed grains. It also recommends that Americans should consume more low-fat dairy products like skim milk rather than those products with full fat such as whole milk. In the old Food Pyramid, ice cream was nutritionally equal to a serving of cottage cheese.

My Pyramid also notes that people must exercise in order to maintain or improve their health. Exercise was completely ignored in the Food Pyramid food guidance system. At the time, the USDA assumed people knew that they had to exercise as well as eat a sensible diet. But never underestimate the stupidity of the average American. Many Americans assumed that diet alone could maintain optimal health.


Some doctors and nutritionists do not like revamped My Pyramid for two main reasons. The first reason is that the food guidance system is ideally for every American. But not all Americans are alike. Different health needs, illnesses and lifestyles require different diets. For example, men tend to need more calories than women. People in active jobs like construction or emergency medical services need more calories than people who work at sedentary jobs.

The second problem is the current debate over the usefulness of the BMR index or Basic Metabolism Rate index. Recent studies suggest that the BMR needs revision in order to apply to healthy Americans. The BMR uses a person’s sex, weight and age in order to calculate a person’s ideal BMR. It does not take into account muscle mass. Muscles weigh more than and are much better for you than fat.


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