eat sweets sparingly




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"Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint."
-Mark Twain

The familiar, black triangle, found on the majority of boxes of foods at the supermarket, has been an expected sight to our generation. Many Americans live by this food pyramid, which outlines a guide to healthy eating. Did you know that the food pyramid was conceived in the 1960s due to an increase in Americans getting heart disease? The U.S. Department of Agriculture responded with the food guide pyramid and Dietary Guidelines for Americans (a pamphlet which is updated every five years). Let’s trace the history of this food pyramid.

Early Beginnings

Before vitamins and minerals were even discovered, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its first dietary recommendations to the nation in 1894. Soon after that, in 1916, the first food guide, called Food For Young Children was published. Caroline Hunt, a nutritionist and the author, divided food into 5 groups: milk/meat, cereals, vegetables/fruits, fats/fatty foods, and sugars/sugary foods.

The Basic Seven and the Basic Four

Prompted by President Franklin Roosevelt, a National Nutrition Conference was called to action in 1941. For the first time, the USDA came up with Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA’s) for Americans to follow. RDA’s specified caloric intake as well as essential nutrients. Also, the USDA announced the “Basic Seven” in 1943, which was a special modification of the nutritional guidelines to help people deal with the shortage of food supplies during the war.

Because of the complexity of the Basic Seven, the Basic Four was introduced and was used for the next 20 years. Milk, meats, fruits and vegetables, and grain products were the categories to eat foods from.

The Basic Four - modified

With chronic diseases like stroke and heart disease on the rise, the USDA needed to address the roles of unhealthy foods. So, during the late 1970s, the USDA added a fifth category to the Basic Four: fats, sweets and alcoholic beverages, for people to consume in moderation.

The Food Pyramid

A Pattern for Daily Food Choices, the USDA’s food guide, was being published annually since the 1980’s. However, people were still not aware that it existed. Beginning in 1988, the creation of a graphic to represent the food groups started. It needed to convey the three main ideas: variety, proportionality and moderation. The Food Guide Pyramid was finally released in 1992. Both the graphics and text conveyed variety and proportionality (by pictures of foods and the size of the food group).

On every food in the grocery store is a nutritional label. That was put into effect in 1994 by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. Now, Americans can follow the Food Guide Pyramid easily.

But, Americans remain confused about healthy eating. A 1996 telephone done by the USDA found that over 40 percent of people agreed with the statement “There are so many recommendations about healthy ways to eat, it’s hard to know what to believe.”
Because of the emergence of so many diets and programs, it will be challenging to Americans to know just what to believe. It seems as if the information we hear is changing every day.


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