Friday, April 22, 2005

Revamping the Pyramid

Have you seen the new food pyramid put out by the US Agriculture department? One the plus side, it's awfully colorful, it has a person engaged in activity/exercise in it and it's customizable (you can put in your age, gender and level of activity). There are twelve customized versions of the pyramid now. But sadly it's a poor replacement for the original.

First off, the old pyramid had actual icons of food in it so at a glance you could see the basics like "eat more grains, and less meat". The new one has no icons because the government says it's "conceptual". All the blocks have been turned sideways and into bands of color so seeing their relative size differences is tough. The idea of twelve different pyramids to reflect differing needs and calories for everyone is probably a good one, but who's going to count calories every day? Not me! And how often are you likely to go to the web to remember what you ought to be eating? The government must have assumed you'd go all the time because you have to use the interactive web version of the pyramid to understand the specifics.

The actual information in the government report is useful and the key recommendations in particular are excellent. There is just no way they could have fit into a pyramid. So couldn't they have tried to come up with a little song or rhyme or something other than a pyramid? Considering that they put four years of work and 2.4 million dollars into the project I'm sad to see that they couldn't have come up with something really simple and easy to understand and remember.

The best thing to come out this project may be the themes.
Variety--Eat foods from all food groups and subgroups
Proportionality--Eat more of some foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products), and less of others (foods high in saturated or trans fats, added sugars, cholesterol salt, and alcohol.)
Moderation--Choose forms of foods that limit intake of saturated or trans fats, added sugars, cholesterol, salt, and alcohol
Activity--Be physically active every day

So here's my idea. Instead of the goofy day-glow triangle that has been criticized as looking more like a gay pride flag than a pyramid--remember VAMP (variety, activity, moderation and proportionality) and you'll do just fine.

UPDATE the government is now using a much simplified plate image. Let me know what you think.