When exploring a topic for a Health and Wellness Circle I facilitate, I ran across some interesting information. The USDA published “Food for Young Children” in the “Farmer’s Bulletin in 1916, followed by “How to Select Foods.” In the 40s, the USDA published a guide with seven groups of food: 1) green and yellow vegetables..some cooked, frozen or canned; 2) oranges, tomatoes…or raw cabbage or salad greens; 3) potatoes and other vegetables and fruits…raw, dried, cooked, frozen or canned; 4) milk and milk products…fluid, evaporated, dried milk, or cheese; 5) meat, poultry, fish, or eggs…or dried beans, peas, nuts, or peanut butter; 6) bread, flour, and cereals…natural whole grain – or enriched or restored; 7) butter and fortified margarine (with added Vitamin A). The caption read, “For Health…eat some food from each group…every day! In addition to the Basic 7, eat any other foods you want.” That leaves it wide open!
Fast forward to 1992 when the Food Pyramid told us how many servings to have. That included 6-11 servings from the Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta Group; 3-5 servings from the Vegetable Group; 2-4 servings from the Fruit Group; 2-3 servings from the Milk, Yogurt & Cheese Group; 2-3 servings from the Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs & Nuts Group; and use Fats, Oils & Sweets sparingly. In 2005, the USDA modified MyPyramid based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans which included different calorie levels. Then, in 2011, they shifted to MyPlate displaying half of a plate with fruits and vegetables (heavier on the vegetables) and half the plate for grains and proteins (heavier on the grains) and dairy. The new “MyPlate” guidelines are based on an individual calorie approach. The USDA provides 10 tips for nutrition, such as eating whole wheat bread instead of white bread.
Although the USDA food guides have come a long way since the Farmer’s Bulletin, there is still much improvement needed. There is more emphasis on calories based on individual needs than the nutritional value of the food. The MyPlate eating guide suggests making half of your grains whole grains and reading labels to ensure whole grains such as “whole wheat” are listed first on the label. The following label is from a bread claiming to be “100% whole grain.” Yes, whole wheat flour is listed first on the label and there are multiple “whole” grains listed in the ingredients. However, look at the fourth and sixth ingredients: sugar and brown sugar. My point is to read labels and beware of what products are stating on the front of the package, and make sure you read the ingredients to make sure you’re getting the “whole” picture.