I don’t really trust the food pyramid . In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t really follow it. This is partially because of my weightlifting goals, but it is also because the USDA, the organization that puts out the food pyramid, has goals that I find to be contradictory. One of the USDA’s goals is to promote the businesses subsidized by the US government — i.e. corn — and another is to promote the nutrition guidelines by which most Americans are expected to make food choices. Isn’t this kind of like asking Kraft to tell us what’s healthy? Wouldn’t Kraft just end up promoting products for its own self-interest and profit?
One can argue that this is certainly the case with our food pyramid . Current recommendations, for example, are for Americans to get 3-11 servings of carbs from grains and starches per day. Guess what crops are most subsidized by the federal government? Oh yes, grains. What about proteins? Meat isn’t a subsidized crop, right? Well, no, but guess what feeds most livestock — subsidized grains.
Even the dairy group on the pyramid, the one we supposedly need for calcium and Vitamin D supplies, has questionable ties to USDA interests. There are lots of other ways to get both calcium and Vitamin D in our diets — vegetables, for example — and even more interestingly, there have been some recent studies questioning whether dietary calcium intake has as strong a connection to bone strength as was once believed. The Dairy lobby, however, is one of the most powerful food lobbying groups around. I’m sure their own studies — the ones that show calcium is so important — helped create the very guidelines on which their product sales rely.
This week, I found this article from the NY Times, and it confirmed my deepening distrust of federal food guidelines. Even as Michelle Obama is promoting healthier eating, healthier activities, and less junk food, the USDA (under both Bush and Obama) has developed a marketing group designed to promote the increased use of full-fat cheese and other dairy products in American restaurants and food production. The folks who profit from this — companies like Domino’s Pizza — have little to offer Americans by way of healthier lifestyles.
The duplicitous goals of groups like the USDA are ultimately what keeps healthy food — vegetables, fruits, organics, whole foods — so very expensive and junk foods so very cheap . With such mixed signals, is it any wonder that Americans don’t know how to eat?