Is New Food Pyramid in Jeopardy?

Discussion
May 12, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson



Straight from the studio in this columnist’s mind: Jeopardy, starring Alex Trebeck.





Contestant: “Alex, I’ll take the new food pyramid for $200.”


Trebeck: “The answer is 73 percent.”


Contestant (hits buzzer): What is the percentage of Americans who have practically no clue about the nutritional guidelines contained in the new food pyramid.


Trebeck: “Judges? Correct. We were looking for those who didn’t have a ‘good’ knowledge but ‘no clue’ works also.




According to a survey conducted by the California Olive Industry, the average consumer not working in the food industry is aware of the USDA’s new food pyramid, but knows little
about it.


Seventy-five percent of respondents said they were aware of the guidelines but only 27 percent would classify their knowledge as “good”. The numbers of those having a handle
on the new guidelines was less among “home cooks” (20 percent) compared to “nutritionists” (72 percent).


Not surprisingly, considering the lack of knowledge, most (66 percent) responding to the survey indicated they have made no dietary changes as a result of the new guidelines.


Moderator’s Comment: A report by USAgNet says, “The guidelines have a stated objective to encourage people to reduce calorie consumption and to increase
exercise.” Will this ultimately be achieved? Do you have concerns about how the message is being received by ordinary Americans? What will this mean for companies in the business
of making/selling food?

George Anderson – Moderator

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9 Comments on "Is New Food Pyramid in Jeopardy?"


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Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 9 months ago
In a round about answer to your questions, George, I’d like to present what I think is an example of a GOOD approach to the challenge of presenting clear, usable guidelines to consumers. The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid (click for details) as presented by the Oldways organization. This one still uses the pyramid structure in a way that makes sense. One glance, and you have a sense of what should be eaten daily and indulged in less frequently. The plan is derived from the traditional diet of Crete and surrounding areas from around 1960. Why? “Recognition that the rates of chronic diseases were among the lowest in the world and adult life expectancy was among the highest for these populations at that time, even though medical services were limited.” So here we have at least some solid evidence to go on, rather than a hodgepodge of theories du jour developed by committee. For my money, I’ll go with what’s worked for people. (And besides…looks like it tastes really good!) Furthermore, Oldways offers healthy pyramid plans for… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 9 months ago

It should have never been hatched! It doesn’t matter and no one cares. If this is what we get for our tax dollars, then let’s do away with every bureaucrat who had anything to do with it. I personally think it’s a conspiracy with the people who print text books. How much money have school districts had to spend on new health books to stay current with our ever changing “Pyramid”? I think it could totally be replaced by “Molly Moderation.”. The mantra being “don’t eat the entire box of doughnuts at once”! If ever there was an argument for e-books, the “Food Pyramid” is certainly the poster child!

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

An earlier thread questioned whether an agency with food clients should be the one to be creating the new Food Pyramid. I hope the food clients didn’t do anything to muddy waters here. Frankly, I doubt it, but there will always be that nagging doubt among many. I don’t think the new version is at all clear. But, it’s early yet. I’d expect it would take a year before the public finally gets its arms around this–if in fact that’s possible. In a nutshell, I think revising the thing to reflect new priorities, but keeping the same format, would have been cheaper and more effective–and more readily understood. Perhaps the gov will try that, if this fails. It shouldn’t cost more than, say, $35.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 9 months ago

It’s not in jeopardy; it’s irrelevant. Consumers are supposed to react in a meaningful way to the startling news that they should eat less and exercise more??

There is no news here. People will behave in the ways they have always behaved. There just wasn’t anything particularly new, interesting or insightful about the pyramid. Why should anyone, other than a nutritionist, react?

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

Having conducted my own personal totally unscientific straw poll today amongst average consumers of different ages and states of residence, I can conclusively conclude that the new food pyramid is a complete and total waste of money. Not to mention being counter- productive and a source of amusement and scorn to anyone with a serious interest in seeing consumers make sensible choices about their diets and lifestyle.

I have been reliably informed that the government is not actually devoting a great deal of money to promotion (having given it all to their pet PR company for r&d) but relying on the food industry to disseminate the message that people should EAT LESS. Yes, they really are being asked, and expected, to do this. Here come those little overweight flying pink critters yet again.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 9 months ago
“From the producer and director of TERROR ALERT comes, FOOD PYRAMID!” Seriously, are any of us surprised that the government spends millions and millions of dollars and comes up with something capable of being confusing and conveying too little information at the same time? The brief coverage of the new Guidelines primarily focused on the physical activity component. The government thinks we should exercise more! Wow! Thanks government! That ought to get my sorry tush out of my desk chair. Seriously though, I do think such guidelines have a role to play, but any iconic depiction is going to fall short. It’s a huge waste of money to think otherwise. Plus, a single plan can’t very well take cultural differences into account. As pointed out above, there are a number of diets that can be equally healthy, that emphasize different things. We’re probably better off with a “best practices” guide than something that depicts a specific balance of foods. More like “Exercise, emphasize whole grains, unsaturated fats and oils, less-processed foods, lean meats. Eat a… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 9 months ago
Olive oil gets its own layer in the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, Rick? Slightly more important than Cheese & Yogurt and slightly less important than Veggies? I’m sold, especially on the garlic-flavored ones! However, paraphrasing one of Holmes’s observations, “After you’ve looked at what’s there, look for what’s not there.” I see at least two missing layers in this Mediterranean Pyramid: the Margarita Layer, and the Chili Dog Layer. The Margarita Layer might have inadvertently been included in the Veggie Layer, since it contains blue agave cactus, limes, and oranges, but any purist would insist that the presence of sodium-chloride-rimicus and fat-green-wormicus earns Margaritas their own layer. ‘Nuf said. The Chili Dog Layer…be still my beating heart. This, the most important layer of ANY legitimate food pyramid, appears as the base layer only in the Sedentary Bikers Diet Pyramid. This is a dangerous slip of dietary awareness, and the world outside the Sedentary Bikers should get in line. As all of us know in the cores of our beings, no multi-protein-based, ruminant-root-friendly, lactic-legume-balanced, veg-a-grain nutrition source… Read more »
Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

The best way to communicate the new food pyramid is if the schools immediately started teaching it. It always amazes me how much my child brings home from school about the environment, politics, even food trends. Recently, he saw the movie Supersize Me, and has made a conscious attempt not to eat at the Golden Arches more than once a month. This is a huge departure from a weekly stop there. If the Government wants to retrain a population, they should start with the most impressionable segment.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
15 years 9 months ago

I really didn’t think they could do a poorer job when they revised the food pyramid, but I was badly mistaken. If it hadn’t been stated that the goal was to reduce calorie consumption and increase exercise I wouldn’t have figured it out from the pyramid. It is so vague and confusing that it is worthless in my opinion. Who else but our government could spend so much money and have so little to show for it?

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