In relation to nutritional guides, the USDA gains legitimacy from the public for two main reasons. First and foremost, the USDA is a governmental agency. People have more of an inclination to trust and follow institutionally sponsored advice. Our country endorses these food guides, so most of us believe that our country has its citizens’ best interests in mind. Secondly, posters of the food guide exist in just about every primary school around the country. Teachers educate young children of the seemingly appropriate way to eat through by using this food diagram approved by USDA. In grade school, especially in classes related to health and nutrition, teachers tell their students that they must follow this in order to blossom into strong and healthy adults.
When the USDA uses these terministic screens, alternative ways to dieting have no place. They restrict us to seeing merely one general way to plan out daily food consumption when, in reality, all sorts of different models of healthy eating exist. Furthermore, the food a person should eat to nourish himself/herself can vary on a case by case basis. Every person has different health concerns. A healthy food diet should cater to an individual’s personal needs.
All of these food guides, starting with Food for Young Children (1916) then The Basic 7 (1943) to MyPlate today, work in alliance with political ideologies and corporate interests of the times. The Basic 7 (1943) promoted nutritional standards under wartime food rationing during World War II. By drawing this model as a circle with seven equivalent parts, equal importance got placed on each food group. Butter and margarine seemed to have as much nutritional value as all green and yellow vegetables (see supporting media in the post called “Media for Analyzing USDA Food Guides”).
Next, the 1956-1970s Food for Fitness, A Daily Food Guide, had four food groups: milk, meat, vegetables/fruits, and bread/cereal. This model specifically stated the number of servings needed daily. Here, the business as usual model works with the formulation of this food guide. During this point in time, agribusiness arose. The fast food, meat, poultry, and dairy industries began to thrive. Food for Fitness made it seem essential to drink milk several times a day. However, if you look at the most current food guide, MyPlate, dairy has become optional. People have drank milk and deemed it necessary for calcium and to have strong bones. Milk has been propagandized in the U.S. in this manner for decades. Having said that, milk actually serves as merely one source of calcium. Many dark leafy green vegetables and some types of legumes supply significant amounts of calcium to the body. This suggestion about milk highly benefited the dairy industry, and thus, follows the business as usual model. The business as usual model for economic growth problematically operates predominantly through maximized profit rather than health and environmental interests.
Then, the 1977 Dietary Goals released the notion that Americans should eat more carbohydrates. Two years later, the USDA came up with yet another food guide . The Hassle Free Daily Food Guide (1979) further promoted corporate food interests. A group of moderate fats, sweets, and alcohol got added to the diagram. Just as food corporations prospered, the obesity rate in the United States skyrocketed. Check it out:
It gets worse. In 1984, the USDA came out with the Food Wheel: A Pattern for Daily Food Choices. The serving size of the bread, cereal, and grains group increased from four servings a day to between six and eleven servings a day! After the Food Wheel came the Food Pyramid, the nutritional guide that I grew up with, and one of the most paradoxical, health deteriorating models of the bunch. The 1992 Food Guide Pyramid focused on allowing variety in dieting. The daily food intake of the average U.S. citizen tremendously increased. Good news for big businesses because profit gain increased. Consumers bought more products now than ever. The Food Pyramid illustrated fats and sugars for each food group. MyFood Pyramid Guide System replaced the Food Pyramid in 2005. This diagram emphasized the importance of exercise. At first glance this might seem like an improvement to the 1992 Food Pyramid. However, let’s take a closer look through applying these guidelines to real life. The documentary Forks Over Knives (2011), gives an example of what the normal American teenager can eat under MyFood Pyramid Guide System:
“A bowl of Lucky Charms with Low-fat Milk and a glass of orange juice from concentrate for breakfast; Cheese-flavored crackers (Cheez-It) for a morning snack; A cheeseburger on a whole-grain bun with French fries and a can of Coke for lunch; Chocolate pudding and grapes for an afternoon snack; and chicken nuggets with a biscuit, green beans from a can for dinner with low-fat ice cream for dessert.”
The USDA calls this a balanced and nutritious meal plan?
The most recent food guide, MyPlate, emerged a little over a year ago in June of 2011. MyPlate shows improvement in comparison to past food guides. In this diagram, the USDA has finally placed the most emphasis on vegetables, then grains, protein,and fruits follow (in that order). Dairy has changed into an optional food group. MyPlate also contains more appropriate, less subjective language through using the words “protein” and “grains” instead of “meat” and “bread”. Even so, MyPlate still has its flaws. My main objection lies with the idea of protein. I believe that this diagram still implicitly equates protein with meat. Drawing protein as its own subsection that does not interlink with the other sections within the illustration creates the illusion that an individual cannot obtain protein from the other food groups in the diagram. In truth, quite a few vegetables, fruits, and even grains have mid to high levels of protein. One cup of quinoa, a grain, contains nine grams of protein. The following image shows a list of the amount of protein in various vegetables and fruits in relationship to the amount of protein roughly needed by certain types of people per day as shown :
Leading a healthy lifestyle lies completely in your own control and can come about through taking numerous routes. You choose whether or not you want to remain in good health. You have the agency to create a diet that meets your own personal needs.