The Obsolete Food Pyramid

Most of us grew up learning how to “properly” eat using the food pyramid. No wonder we have seen such a climb in the obesity rate. It is known that many of us eat way too many carbs and think that is the right thing to do. I mean, why wouldn’t you think that? It’s unfortunate that this is what we were taught. Most of us have followed the above pyramid and built it into a well-ingrained habit. To me, and every other fitness professional, this looks like a plan we would give if we wanted to fatten you up because that’s what it is guaranteed to do. Besides what is shown in the food pyramid, there are many other fallacies that a good portion of us believe as truth. Cereal makes for a good breakfast, fruit juice is just as good as eating actual fruit, and having a grain at every meal is good, right? Wrong. These are just fallacies.


Due to the food pyramid, I can never believe someone when they tell me they eat “healthy.” It’s not that they are lying, they truly believe that they are eating in a manner that should rid fat on their body or lead to a healthy life. However, it’s simply not true most of the time and the person doesn’t even realize it. It sounds nuts that we were all duped by the USDA food pyramid, but it is exactly what has happened.


Due to being bombarded by confusing misinformation, such as labels that say “healthy-all natural-organic-no added sugar-etc,” it becomes very difficult to figure out what to eat and what the actual right options are. If you haven’t already read my article on 5 easy habits to build to eat healthy, I suggest reading that for some clarification. Now, let’s debunk some of these fallacies that have been perpetuated by the food pyramid.


So many people are told breakfast is an important meal and helps jumpstart your day. This I cannot argue with. However, they are also told that cereal is a great option. Cereals such as cheerios, frosted flakes, and special K are all branded as being healthy options to start the day and having a good source of X to help with Y. Sure, maybe they have fiber or vitamin D, but they also overwhelmingly consist of carbs. They are all at least 90% carbohydrates. Most people have their cereal with milk, which is also high in carbs. So, you have carbs on carbs on carbs. This starts our day off with a surplus of carbohydrates and not a lot of anything else. Then, most of us go and sit for a while, which is is not the ideal time for a stomach full of carbs. If you are going to have any cheap carbs, it is best to leave them for after a workout. Even then there are still better options. For breakfast, try having some eggs cooked in coconut oil or olive oil. Make sure to add in a bunch of spinach or other leafy vegetables as well as some peppers and onions. This breakfast option is much better balanced. It will leave you feeling satisfied longer and you won’t have to worry about it going straight to your hips.


As for thinking that fruit juice, such as apple juice, is just as good as eating an actual apple, I do not blame you for thinking this. Most of the time these drinks come with labels that say made with 100% juice or made with real apples, etc. However, drinking your calories can start to get real hairy, real quick. In one cup of apple juice (8 ounces to be exact…aka not a full drinking glass, like most of us pour), there are 23 grams of sugar, which usually becomes more like 38 grams because we pour a full cup. Then, it usually doesn’t clench our thirst so we pour another, and another, and another. You see where I’m going? Throughout the day this can easily lead to a sneaky addition of over 100 grams of sugar! An apple has about as many grams of sugar per serving as apple juice, but it has more fiber. Fiber slows the rate of which your body absorbs sugar. Eating and digesting an apple takes much longer than digesting any liquid. In other words, apple juice and apples are not interchangeable. Thus, fruit juices aren’t great options for drinks. Instead, opt for water or tea as often as possible. They’re calorie free and great for your health.


According to the above food pyramid, you should have a lot of grains. Like, a lot. As in 3-6 times more grains than protein. This is advice meant to make you go back for more, and more, and even more. Eating what I like to call cheap carbs tends to lead to unwanted weight gain. You eat a little bit of them but always find yourself going back for more. Next thing you know you’ve consumed way more than recommended, which is already a high amount. 6-11 servings is way too much. If you want to maintain body weight, or lose a few lbs., opt for fewer carbs and choose to eat more vegetables, preferably the leafy variety. Processed foods such as pasta, cereal, bread can create bloating and inflammation in many individuals, which can affect the way the digestive system works. Most people do not realize they have an issue with any of these foods and would probably never guess that these foods are giving them health problems. Remember, choosing non-processed foods will usually be the better option.


Although the food pyramid is not used anymore, many of us have not been exposed to the newer food diagram called myplate. I am not necessarily fond of myplate either, due to some of the same reasons. They over-recommend grains and under-emphasize water.  Precision nutrition created this awesome infographic that is an up-to-date version of what the food pyramid or myplate should look like. Look at the graphic below. Notice how many veggies there are? Follow this and I guarantee that you will feel so much better. Your stomach will thank you, your mind will thank you, and your body will thank you.