Can Childhood Obesity Be Solved By The Food Pyramid?

Everyone agrees that childhood obesity is a problem, but there is a great deal of debate about how to solve it. Is the classic Food Pyramid the answer or do we have to look elsewhere? A look at the basic structure of the pyramid and the arguments its critics put forward against it help provide the answers.

Back in 1916, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a “Food for Young Children” guide. This became the basis for the first Food Pyramid. It underwent several revisions until, in 1992, six food groups replaced the original four and the “Food Guide Pyramid” was introduced.

Grains and foods made from grains, such as bread, pasta and cereal were placed at the base of the pyramid. Next in order of importance were vegetables and fruit, with each having roughly the same level of importance. Next on the list were protein rich foods. These were equally divided between dairy products and other proteins, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes and nuts. Finally, the tip of the pyramid was devoted to oils, fats and sweets. These were to be consumed “sparingly”.

The Dept. of Agriculture revised the look of the Food Pyramid further in 2005, changing the horizontal blocks to 6 vertical colored stripes and the name to MyPyramid, but the food groups remain essentially the same. In an effort to address the issue of child obesity, the government website now emphasizes the low fat, higher nutritional aspects of each food group. However, is this information enough to stem the growing tide of childhood obesity? One critic says it is not.

The Harvard School of Public Health has taken matters into its own hands and published an alternative to the Department of Agriculture’s pyramid called the Healthy Eating Pyramid. Among their other criticisms, the creators of the Harvard pyramid believe the USDA’s has been influenced by corporate interests and uses outdated scientific information.

There are several important points of difference between the Harvard food pyramid and the government’s. The USDA gives red meat a place of distinction on its protein list, while it is placed along with other “use sparingly” foods on Harvard’s list. Harvard also moves dairy products down from a primary protein source to a two to three servings a day category. Grains and grain-based foods have a predominant place on Harvard’s list, but white bread and other refined grain foods have been separated from whole grains and moved up to the apex of the pyramid.

There are two other aspects of the Harvard version that should be pointed out. It makes a clear distinction between fats and oils that are good for you and those that are not. Saturated fats and trans fats should be avoided, while healthy oils such as olive oil should be an important inclusion in a healthy diet. While the USDA’s new pyramid now shows a figure climbing steps to indicate the importance of exercise, Harvard places exercise and weight control together at the base of its pyramid, suggesting they are the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.

The question remains: Can the Food Pyramid solve childhood obesity? An argument can be made that the Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid goes further towards addressing the problem than the USDA’s MyPyramid. Other diet and nutrition experts offer alternative solutions to the issue of obesity in children. In the last analysis, though, the only way to tackle obesity is to learn the facts and follow through with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.

Our website is devoted to everything about the food pyramid. It has details all about the new USDA “MyPyramid” and nutrition facts, diets and advice from nutrition experts about child obesity and other important health issues. Written in clear, easy to understand language, clears the confusion about the food pyramid and can help get you on the road to a healthy diet and lifestyle.

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