The New Food Pyramid
- Shape Up Or Ship Out
by Mad Dog
No words, no cute icons for the food groups, and no mention
of the fact that it appears to be sending the message that if you want
to be healthy you should be gay and use a Stairmaster.
took four years and cost $2.4 million, but the U.S. Department of
Agriculture worked extra hard and managed to convert a confusing food
pyramid into a useless and incomprehensible one. To put this into
perspective, they spent $600,000 per year, $400,000 per food group, or
enough money to buy 533,333 giant bags of Cheetos and still have plenty
left over to convince the public that cheese puffs are a dairy product.
The food pyramid, for those of you
who have been too busy sucking the cream out of your Twinkies to pay
attention, is the good old four food groups on steroids, though of
course that’s the past and we’re not here to talk about the past.
Okay, but just for a second. Before there were four groups there were
seven. Prior to that there were twelve. In 1916 there were five, and a
long, long time ago there was just one — pond scum. Luckily we’ve
progressed since then. Well, all except vegans.
The current food groups are grains,
vegetables, fruits, milk, oils, and meat and beans. The problem is
you’d never know it from looking at the new pyramid. That’s because
it’s made up of a pyramid split into six vertical rainbow-colored
bands with a stylized image of a person climbing a staircase. No words,
no cute icons for the food groups, and no mention of the fact that it
appears to be sending the message that if you want to be healthy you
should be gay and use a Stairmaster. It doesn’t even tell you what
food group each colored band represents. It does, however, instruct you
to go to a web site where you can find out this information. If this
trend catches on don’t be surprised if you see a red octagonal road
sign at a corner that says: “What does this mean? Visit
The USDA considers potato chips and french fries to be
vegetables. Not only that, they say you can count them as part of two
— count ‘em, 2! — food groups at once: vegetables and oils. This
is good because it promotes efficient eating.
There’s little question the USDA needed to revise the food
pyramid. After all, a lot has changed in the 12 years since the pyramid
was created, especially the size of people’s waistlines. Obesity is so
widespread in this country that 27 percent of adults and 12.5 percent of
children can’t fit into last month’s jeans. While other factors
could be to blame, including incessant fast food restaurant advertising,
the fact that teenagers get over 30% of their vegetable intake from
potato chips and french fries, and al-Qaeda, it’s also possible that
there’s a direct causal relationship between the food pyramid itself
and waddling, since the problem’s gotten worse since the food pyramid
was created, not better. In order to be certain we need to establish a
Senate subcommittee, have Time write a cover story about it, and
get someone — me for instance — to do an in-depth study on the
matter. A big, fat, cushy, long-term government funded study, of course.
With fresh, hot Krispy Kremes delivered to the office every morning.
The new food pyramid basically tells you nothing.
They slightly rearranged the categories, dropped any mention of
recommended daily servings, and expect that the slightly different width
of the color bands will clue us into how much of each color group — I
mean, food group — we should eat each day. Of course there’s still
the problem of definition. Remember, the USDA considers potato chips and
french fries to be vegetables. Not only that, they say you can count
them as part of two — count ‘em, 2! — food groups at once:
vegetables and oils. This is good because it promotes efficient eating.
Dump some ketchup on those fries and — hold onto your spuds, George
— you’ve just added a serving of the fruit food group too! That’s
three food groups rolled up in one supersized snack. Toss some chili and
cheese on those fries and you’re set for the day.
should change it to a narrow Food Cylinder. Then they should shift the
responsibility for the Food Cylinder to a different government agency.
Like the IRS.
What they need to do is change the shape completely. Right now
it’s sending the wrong subliminal message. Think about it, we’re
using an object with a big wide bottom as our role model. Thus, when we
look in the mirror and see a big wide bottom staring back at us, we
think it’s the sign of a job well done rather than something that
needs to be remedied. They should change it to a narrow Food Cylinder.
Then they should shift the responsibility for the Food Cylinder to a
different government agency. Like the IRS. For years the government has
been taxing cigarettes to make them so expensive that people will quit
smoking. In New York City they raised the tax from 8-cents to $1.50,
which brought the price of a pack of cigarettes to $7.50. I know if I
still smoked I couldn’t afford my old two pack a day habit. Heck, for
that $400 a month I could rent a closet in New York. Okay, a shared
If the government were to tax food
based on a reverse health scale, foods with high fat content, lots of
calories, and little nutritional value would have a tax slapped on them.
The worse the food is for you, the higher the tax. Then if people wanted
to be poorer and fatter, it would be their choice. But with luck they
might stop and think, “Hey, if I forego that highly taxed 24-pack of
fried pork rinds every week, at the end of a year I could take a
two-week cruise with the savings and look so much better in my bathing
suit.” Not to mention some of that tax money could go to the USDA so
they could create a meaningful representation of the Food Cylinder. You
know, one that actually had words or icons on it so we’d know what it
was trying to show us.
©2005 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
They're high in fiber.