Remember the Food Pyramid? If not, it looked something like this:
The above nutritional diagram was introduced in 1992 by the US Department of Agriculture with the intention to provide science-based dietary guidance to the public on healthy eating habits. For example, as indicated by the largest section and base of the pyramid, one should eat twice as many serving of bread, cereal, rice & pastas as one should of vegetables. Similarly, the top of this pyramid says that fats, oils & sweets should only be consumed ‘sparingly’. Despite its popularity, this diagram contained significant inaccuracies. Nutritionists now know that carbohydrates, which make up a lot of breads, cereals, rice and pastas, get metabolized quicker in your body, and therefore stores more easily as unwanted fat, especially if given a sedentary lifestyle. Similarly, not all types of fats and oils are bad for you as previously conceived. Many of the oils found in vegetables, nuts, seeds, seafood, olives and avocados, contain essential fatty acids as well as vitamin E. These new discoveries pave the way for popular diet trends such as the Atkins and Ketogenic.
What Happened to the Food Pyramid?
In 2005, the USDA restructured its nutritional guidelines and introduced MyPlate. The new food guide(below) divides nutrition into 5 main food groups: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Protein, and Dairy. It suggests that fruits and vegetables should make up half of your diet, and grains and protein make up the other half. It also says that the majority of your diet should consist of vegetables and grains
Below are Myplate definitions on what each food group actually includes:
Fruits: Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the Fruit Group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed.
Vegetables: Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as a member of the Vegetable Group. Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed.
Based on their nutrient content, vegetables are organized into 5 subgroups: dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables.
Grains: Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is a grain product. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits are examples of grain products.
Grains are divided into 2 subgroups, Whole Grains and Refined Grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel – the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples of whole grains include whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice. Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grans a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. Some examples of refined grain products are white flour, de-germed cornmeal, white bread, and white rice.
Most refined grains are enriched. This means certain B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid) and iron are added back after processing. Fiber is not added back to enriched grains. Check the ingredient list on refined grain products to make sure that the word “enriched” is included in the grain name. Some food products are made from mixtures of whole grains and refined grains.
Protein: All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds are considered part of the Protein Foods Group. Beans and peas are also part of the Vegetable Group.
Select a variety of protein foods to improve nutrient intake and health benefits, including at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood per week. Young children need less, depending on their age and calorie needs. The advice to consume seafood does not apply to vegetarians. Vegetarian options in the Protein Foods Group include beans and peas, processed soy products, and nuts and seeds. Meat and poultry choices should be lean or low-fat.
Dairy: All fluid milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Most Dairy Group choices should be fat-free or low-fat. Foods made from milk that retain their calcium content are part of the group. Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, are not. Calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage) is also part of the Dairy Group.
Oils: Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like the vegetable oils used in cooking. Oils come from many different plants and from fish. Oils are NOT a food group, but they provide essential nutrients. Therefore, oils are included in the USDA food patterns.
Some commonly eaten oils include: canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, olive oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil. Some oils are used mainly as flavorings, such as walnut oil and sesame oil. A number of foods are naturally high in oils, like nuts, olives, some fish, and avocados.
Next week, we will go more into the USDA dietary guidelines for Americans and dive deeper into fats, oils, and added sugars.
Please check out https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ to read more about Myplate, popular nutrition topics, as well as access online tools for weight management and healthy living.
Also, check out Harvard Medical School’s version of MyPlate, called the Healthy Eating Plate:https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/
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