Over the decades, the guidelines for proper nutrition have continued to evolve, much to the confusion of the general public. After all, it sometimes can appear that new guidelines completely contradict previous guidelines, which makes people trust them less. However, significant advances in our understanding of nutrition have been made.
Gone are the days of the original food pyramid from the USDA, which suggested the basis of a healthy diet was 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, and pasta per day. (If you’re old enough to remember the famous USDA graphic, you’ll recall the large loaf of white bread prominently displayed in the base of the pyramid.) It also pushed two to three servings of dairy and two to three more servings of meat, with a nice thick steak highlighted.
More recently, we had the launch of My Plate, which aimed to simplify things for a confused public that was hearing conflicting advice on what was healthy. While the approach was admittedly simple, it might have actually gone too far, leaving out important explanations. In the end, My Plate still left consumers scratching their heads about what was healthy.
While we’re still learning about the best ways to eat a healthy diet, we’ve made significant progress. Kudos to the experts at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School for their creation of the Healthy Eating Plate. It provides clear definitions of what constitutes a healthy and balanced approach to eating, which was welcome after the ambiguity of My Plate.
Although not in pyramid form, it’s clear that for the first time ever, vegetables should form the base of a healthy diet. And while protein is still shown as important, no longer are we encouraged to base our meals around beef. In fact, we’re told outright to limit red meat. Also limited is dairy consumption. That’s right. We’re no longer being told to “pour one more.”
It seems to me, science is finally having more impact on our guidelines than lobbyists.