A different look at the Food Pyramid

Practically everyone remembers the highly touted Food Guide Pyramid, unveiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2002. In just a few short years, however, it seems to have become outdated.

The base of the pyramid is represented by breads, cereals, rice and pasta, and includes a recommendation of five to 11 servings a day. Such a recommendation, of course, would make an Atkins diet advocate cringe.

So, what might an alternative pyramid look like? One such option, which was actually published in August 2001, was put forth by Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, of Harvard Medical School in his book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy (Simon & Schuster, New York City).

Saying the Food Guide Pyramid is "built on shaky scientific ground," Willett proposes the alternative Health Eating Pyramid. It recommends sharply restricting red meat, potatoes, and refined grain products such as white bread; limiting dairy products to one or two servings a day; replacing unhealthy saturated fat with healthier unsaturated vegetable oils; and emphasizing whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Thus, in Willett’s pyramid, red meat, butter, potatoes, sweets, white bread, white rice, ordinary pasta, and other refined grain products are placed in a small area at the top, with the recommendation "Use Sparingly."

The base of the pyramid includes whole-grain foods, such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread, and vegetable oils such as olive and canola. Like the Food Guide Pyramid, Willett’s puts fruits and vegetables in the middle. It also recommends a daily multivitamin and allows alcohol "in moderation." The book also includes recipes and menus.