The Ultimate Pyramid Scheme

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 5.23.54 PMThe legacy of the USDA Food Pyramid is deception. Really. I know I sound like a conspiracy theorist but I don’t like buying into something that benefits everyone else but me.

I was in grade school when the food Pyramid was presented as the model for healthy eating and it made a huge impression on me. I took to heart that there were four food groups: Bread, Fruits & Vegetables, Meat & Dairy and Fats & Sweets. I imagined that smart nutrition scientists had figured out what we should eat and put this easy guide together to keep us healthy. Ha! There was definitely intelligence behind the design but it seems that the end goal was to keep the economy healthy. Big corporations got very rich and we got fat and sick.

The crops that the government paid farmers to grow are the very foods that formed the base of the pyramid: GRAINS. 6-11 recommended daily servings to be exact! We now know that grain is not only genetically modified (with unknown effects) but it is highly allergenic for many. And whenever you consistently expose yourself to an allergen the chronic inflammation that results taxes your immune system and bad things happen. Like autoimmune disease.  Oh, and by the way, high glycemic index grains in bread, cereal, pasta and rice melt into sugar in your body and are implicated in the obesity epidemic we are currently experiencing. Thanks for that too Uncle Sam.

The Meat & Dairy category represents food that is subsidized by the government as well. Many would argue that these foods are optional and problematic. They would not be wrong. Particularly since there is no mention of quality in the recommendations and those industrially raised (tortured) animals are loaded with all sorts of antibiotics and hormones in order to survive their living conditions. Did I mention that they are eating the same grains we are encouraged to eat? GMO corn mostly. So they are fat and sick too.

And now for my personal pet peeve about the Food Pyramid: Fruits & Vegetables. Not that I don’t like both very much  indeed: organically grown, seasonal and preferably local, that is. It’s just that fruits are not the same as vegetables and because they are so inextricably linked in our vernacular, people assume that a plate full of pineapple is as good as a plate full of kale. And it just isn’t. Fruits are high in natural sugars and need to be regarded as treats for that reason. Vegetables are the workhorses of the food supply and we need to eat them in much greater quantity than fruits. By the way, contrary to many of the Food Pyramid images, potatoes and corn do not count as vegetables since they too melt into sugar in your body.

Following these guidelines, the Standard American Diet goes something like this: bagel & cream cheese breakfast, cheeseburger for lunch and pasta with cheese for dinner. Kids seems to prefer cereal and milk for breakfast, cheese sandwich lunches and macaroni and cheese or pizza for dinner. Let’s face it. It’s all the same thing: grain and dairy, the two most inflammatory food groups. Throw some fruit (sugar) and  fruit juice (sugar) in there and it is just like the old ditty said: “Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening and  sugar at suppertime…”

So there you have it, my indictment of the Food Pyramid. And the cleverly redesigned Food Plate is not much better. It gets points for separating Fruits from Vegetables but again Grain is awarded a full quadrant of the model, the same value as Vegetables. That will keep everyone fat and happy, no loss for the big cereal grain corporations, no need for us to break the  addiction to our favorite comfort foods and the weight loss industry benefits as well. It is the ultimate pyramid scheme with a few winners on top and the rest of us paying the price at the bottom.

Andrea DiMauro is the founder of the website Food Truth. For more great information on how to actually eat healthy and for inspiring recipes of seasonal real foods, check out the Food Truth app – FREE in in the App store! and visit

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