If you want a guideline for what food to eat and in what amounts to stay healthy, look no further than the USDA requirements, now called MyPlate, which evolved from the Food Guide Pyramid. Read on for a brief history of the evolution of healthy eating over the past 30 years — although the idea of a food guide started as early as 1915.
- Food Guide Pyramid. Many of us likely remember the pyramid, created in 1992 as a way to help Americans eat a more healthy overall diet with goals for both “nutrient adequacy and moderation.” It encouraged us to eat a variety of different foods and acknowledged that we do like our less healthy, sugary, fattier foods — so just eat them sparingly. It replaced the 1984 Food Wheel, which was first to use the five major food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein such as eggs, meat, poultry and fish). The Pyramid suggested how many servings of each group to eat daily, with grains making up the bottom of the pyramid at 6-11 servings and fats, oils, and sweets at the top to simply “use sparingly.”
- 2005 MyPyramid Food Guidance System. This kept the concept of the pyramid but simplified the illustration and broke it down to include daily amounts of food at twelve different calorie levels. It also included oils and the idea of exercise while still laying out the ideas of moderation, portion and variety. Going to the MyPyramid website suggested which foods to eat in terms of portions (cups and ounces) and explained in detail the nutritional value of each group. This pyramid included a graphic of someone running up the side of the pyramid to promote exercise as well as proper eating.
- MyPlate. In 2011 the pyramid turned into a plate, following the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to update the USDA food patterns. The shape changed to grab attention with a new visual and the message switched to simply remind people how to eat healthily, not give specific messages. The visual now has vegetables as the major food group to eat, on par with grains. Protein and fruits are suggested in nearly equal amounts, with dairy on the side (perhaps that dinner cup of milk that many of us drank as kids).
If you want to eat well and aren’t sure which magazine or website to use, the MyPlate website has it all laid out for you. Using this as a guide, along with regular exercise, will help you stay at your healthiest.