The USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) just concluded the public input phase of the redesign of its ubiquitous Food Pyramid. The USDA plans to unveil its new Food Guidance System, as it is now called, by early 2005. According to Dr. Eric J. Hentges, Executive Director of CNPP, the USDA plans to retain the pyramid shape as it is well known throughout the country. However, the content will change. The bottom portion of the current Food Pyramid has come under significant attack as a primary cause of overweight and obesity. Currently, the Pyramid promotes the consumption of 7 to 11 servings of grains, pasta, rice and potatoes as the primary food group. This will change as fruits, vegetables and whole grains have gained in nutritional stature (and lobbying efforts) over the past five years. Meat and saturated fats, of course, will remain as the scapecoat for heart disease.
On August 19, a public forum was held at the USDA so we could voice their comments on the restructuring of the Pyramid. 27 different organizations spoke that day, including the Weston A. Price Foundation. My comments on behalf of the Foundation were sandwiched in between those of Dr. Stuart Trager of the Atkins Nutritional Approach and Dr. Dean Ornish of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute. Most of the remaining commenters were from food industry associations. As you may know, Atkins and Ornish are on the opposite sides of the spectrum when protein sources are considered. Atkins advocates high meat and saturated fat consumption while Ornish relegates such to the garbage heap. Both advocate the consumption of soy products.
I took a more measured approach saying that all four groups need to be consumed without specifying any particular ranking or serving size as no one size fits all, which is what the Atkins and Ornish approaches advocate. I suggested that the Food Pyramid be abolished as it serves no useful purpose. Our recommendations include:
Everyday, eat high quality, unprocessed foods from each of the following four groups:
- Animal foods: meat, poultry, fish, eggs and whole milk products
- Grains and legumes: whole grain baked goods, breakfast porridges, beans
- Fruits and Vegetables: preferably fresh or frozen
- Fats and Oils: unrefined saturated and monounsaturated fats including butter and other animal fats, palm oil and coconut oil, olive oil and peanut oil
- Eat sparingly: sweets, white flour products, soft drinks, processed foods, polyunsaturated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and fried foods.
In addition, the Foundation submitted an extensive set of written comments to the USDA on the Food Pyramid. This document is esssentially the same as that sent to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee earlier this year with exception that I have added a section on Excitotoxins, particularly on MSG and aspartame.