Random Rant: Graphs

03 Jun

They’ve retired the food pyramid. No, this post is not about the crazy food talk we tend to push. Instead, it’s about the apparent ignorance of the American public’ ability to read a graph, or at least the USDA’s ignorance about proposing graphs for us to read.

This article from the NY Times explains the reason for the change. Here’s a synopsis in pictures.

In 1992, the USDA published the food pyramid to help Americans make healthy food choices:

Seems to me this one is pretty straight forward. There are numbers on each section. According to this, I should have more than twice as many grains as I do fruits and vegetables combined. Even if you’re not “mathy,” I think you can understand this fact pretty well just from comparing the shapes in the picture. Short plug, it’s the opinion of many that if you turn this one upside down, we’ve got a much better suggestion of what people should be eating.

In 2005, the USDA decided the original was too hard to read and needed some updating, so we got this:

This one seems far harder to read to me. First, no numbers for people who do not process well graphically. Second, while the slivers in the pyramid are still proportional, it’s hard to read this and understand what’s going on. I can see that I’m supposed to consume pretty much no oil, little meat & beans, and then some of everything else.

Thursday, the USDA released this:

Um…what? I have a serious problem with this one. Dairy isn’t even in the graph. How are people supposed to compare that circle to the other pie-shapes? If you’re not “mathy,” or able to process well visually, how are you supposed to compare that blue circle? The explanation is that if your plate looks like the one above, but with food on it, you’re good. Here’s an example:

I just don’t get this at all. This is the hardest of the three graphs for me to understand. What do I do when I want to eat something like lasagna? I have no idea how it stacks up to this “plate.” What about soup? Anything that puts the food groups together rather than separated? What if I want any kind of dairy other than milk? I don’t know what to do with it!

Oh well. I personally prefer this one:

I know. No numbers, but there’s no need to count. Just eat in these proportions until you’re full. πŸ™‚


Posted by on June 3, 2011 in paleo, Random Rants



4 responses to “Random Rant: Graphs

  1. Laci Morgan

    June 3, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Wow, that second version’s confusing…you can’t even tell what the slivers are (are they even labeled?) and the vertical appearance makes comparing sizes difficult. That plate one’s totally confusing too. Are they saying that’s what you should eat per meal? Or per day?

    I think they should have stuck with the original. I mean, is it REALLY that hard to read? No. I don’t think that’s America’s problem (“really, I had no idea I wasn’t supposed to eat donuts all day because the food pyramid was too confusing!”).

  2. Bekah

    June 3, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I eat my grains and fats and such, but the picture of the food on the plate is disgusting. I don’t know what that “protein” even is and everything else is so processed I can’t even stand to look at it. This image may haunt me forever.

    • jalzen

      June 4, 2011 at 7:52 am

      Lol. Right? That’s our example to follow. Definitely not as cool as you with your blender making awesome baby food and using all your vegetables to not waste. If we ever have a kid, I’ll have to ask you for help.

  3. Bekyb

    June 3, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    That sliver one really through my eyes for a loop. Confusing.
    I think the plate one is saying per meal, but most people should not have that much dairy in a day. There is about 12oz of milk in that glass. I also think it is funny that the bread goes outside the lines, while the fruit and veggie don’t even come close to the edge. haha yep, even the USDA promotes wrong health.

    I agree with you! I like yours best. πŸ™‚


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