Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Munchable Soapbox: Guiding our Food Choices

Seven food groups in 1941...luckily, Butter is its own!
New way of visualizing the food groups is 2011
Food and diet is one of the most personal of decisions. What passes our lips, what nourishes our bodies; and what could be more personal than that? But our choices of what we consume are colored by the messages conveyed through the media. While advertising by food companies may be the first thing that comes to mind, the government actually has a considerable role in coloring our perceptions.

One of the most pervasive forms of government intervention in our food systems are nutritional guidelines. Daily recommendations were first published in 1916 with five food groups: meat and dairy, cereals, fruits and vegetables, fats, and sugars. The number and composition of the food groups has changed numerous times over the course of the century. Twelve in the 1930's turned into seven in the 1940's and four in the 1950's. The pyramid we know too well was introduced in 1992, before landing on "My Plate" in 2011.

It's interesting to note the changes in food groups - the loss of a butter category, the consolidation of vegetables. Yet while strides have been made in research and understanding of health and research, the fundamentals of the USDA guidelines has really not changed significantly in all these years. So, what's next for food recommendations, and will these accomplish more in influencing healthy eating decisions by the American public?

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