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. 🙂