USDA Food Pyramid History

The USDA Food Pyramid History is a classic example of how political lobbying by food organisations can influence government and scientific recommendations. This resulted in major changes to what should have been a healthy food pyramid.

In this article we will review the USDA Food Pyramid History in some detail to provide you with a good understanding of the political influences involved in food recommendations and why you should do your own research before following any nutritional guidelines.

The USDA Food Pyramid History Part 1:
Creation of the USDA

Back in the 1860's many diseases and sickness were caused by malnutrition; people simply weren't getting enough food to eat. As a result, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was created.

It encouraged the American population to eat more food. By doing so it ensured a healthier population. It also advanced the financial interests of farmers and was therefore beneficial for the economy because during that time about two-thirds of the population were involved in farming of some kind.

USDA Food Pyramid History



This approach worked well for about the next hundred years but then food became over-supplied. People now had choice. They were able to be more selective about the types of food they ate. As a result, the food producers were forced to compete against each other in order to ensure continued sales of their food products and to maximise their profits.



The USDA Food Pyramid History Part 2:
Food Group Lobbying Begins

The dairy industry was the first food group to start structured marketing for their products. They began dairy associations and dairy councils. These associations were funded by wealthy companies in the dairy industry. The primary aim of the associations and councils was to promote the interests of the dairy industry.

They conducted mass media advertising to influence the general public's views about dairy products in conjunction with 'behind the scenes' promotion.

The 'behind the scenes' promotion included:

  • 'Encouragement' of politicians to pass favourable laws for dairy farmers

  • 'Sponsorship' of scientific research

  • Advertisements in respectable scientific journals

  • Organised conferences for influential people (food and wine provided), particularly for people who worked for the USDA


  • The USDA Food Pyramid History Part 3:
    Creation of 'Food For Fitness'

    In 1958 the USDA released 'Food For Fitness: A daily food guide'. It contained four basic food groups: dairy, meat, fruits and vegetables, and grains and cereals. The guide was designed to educate people about the type and quantity of food to eat every day. The basic message of Food For Fitness was simply to eat more.

    Of course, all the promotion done by the dairy industry paid off, with the guide suggesting people to consume more dairy products and with the dairy group being placed at the top of the guide. It even recommended people to have at least four glasses of milk each day!

    As soon as the guide came out the dairy associations and councils began promoting it to schools across the US.

    The meat industry wasn't happy with the fact that their food products were below the dairy group and thought that the recommendations to consume at least 2 serves a day of meat products was low. Then they discovered the power of lobbying and began using their massive financial powers to help promote their industry, just as the dairy industry had done before them.

    Many years later, lack of food was definitely not a problem any more; there was an abundance of food. Unfortunately though, the vast majority of food available wasn't very nutritious. It was processed, packaged and devoid of most beneficial nutrients; most of it contained empty calories. This lead to a growing epidemic of obesity as well as chronic diseases like, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. These health problems are strongly associated with the consumption of too many nutritionally-empty foods.



    The USDA Food Pyramid History Part 4:
    Development of 'Eating Right Food Pyramid'

    Eventually the USDA decided that the food recommendations needed to be revised. The message of 'Eat More' was certainly not relevant any more. Many years were spent researching the area of nutrition and finally the 'Eating Right' food pyramid was created.

    This guide told people to:

  • Eat less processed foods

  • Eat less meat and dairy products because of their high fat contents

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • However, just before the release of the Eating Right guide, the dairy, meat and grain industries used their connections to apply political pressure to staff and researchers at the USDA to prevent it's release to the public.



    The USDA Food Pyramid History Part 5:
    The Final USDA Food Pyramid'

    As a result, the printing of the Eating Right food pyramid (which was actually a very healthy food pyramid) was stopped on the grounds that the guide might be confusing for children. Then, just over a year later, a modified version of the food pyramid was released. This modified version, which became the now infamous 'Food Pyramid', was created by the USDA based on their 'research'.

    The biggest modification of the food pyramid diagram was the re-positioning of the grain and cereal group. In the Eating Right guide it was positioned at the top with fats, oil and sugar, which meant that people were recommended to eat those food sparingly. After the USDA 'research' however, this group was placed at the bottom of the pyramid with recommendations to eat 6-11 serves a day! It is interesting that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) started recommending their food the most!

    If you want to find out how the consumption of too many processed carbohydrates can have a negative impact on your health and ability to lose weight please read my article, Examples of Carbohydrates.

    Also, the recommendation to, 'Eat Less' was replaced with 'Don't Eat Too Much'. Obviously because the food industry didn't want people to eat less of highly profitable (low quality) foods.

    'Eat Less Meat' was changed to, 'Eat More Lean Meat' so the meat industry didn't miss out on their share. Plus, the dairy group was strongly promoted as well. It is amazing that people still believe that if they don't have enough dairy foods in their diet they will get osteoporosis. This is probably the biggest nutritional lie that has been pushed onto an unaware public that has now become a common belief!

    The new food pyramid was protested against by the researchers involved in creating the original Eating Right Food Pyramid. They said that it would lead to an epidemic of diabetes and obesity, which we see the results of today.

    One of the biggest contributing factors to today's level of obesity is the fact that we have simply been told to eat the wrong foods over the years. Governments have succumbed to pressure from food groups in allowing these recommendations to be promoted to the pubic.

    Then, we have massive food associations in conjunction with 'health' associations promoting these recommendations to everyone. Is it any wonder that we now have an obesity and disease epidemic in our society today!

    The USDA food pyramid history is just one example of where 'big business' controls governments, scientific research and public belief. As a society we need to become more aware and informed of situations where this type of activity occurs.

    The USDA food pyramid diagram has been promoted globally for many years. In Australia, the USDA food pyramid history continues, whereby it has been replaced with Australia's Guide to Healthy Eating, which is an exact replica of the USDA food pyramid but simply in a 'pie or 'plate' format as opposed to a 'pyramid'.

    Click on this link if you would like a copy of an unbiased food pyramid, New Version of Food Pyramid.

    Also, if you would like to discover all the principles you need to improve your health and lose all the weight you want, please get a copy of my e-book, Look Good, Feel Great!








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