K Humphries, S Langstaff, D Bainbridge, T Seekins
foods instruction, health, health promotion, nutrition
K Humphries, S Langstaff, D Bainbridge, T Seekins. The Wise Choices Food Pyramid: What if we did compare apples and oranges?. The Internet Journal of Nutrition and Wellness. 2007 Volume 6 Number 2.
With more sedentary lives and more available food, our waistlines are growing and chronic diseases related to nutrition – like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers – are on the rise. Our diets, although abundant, are relatively
Work completed at: The University of Montana Rural Institute on Disabilities
Work supported in part by Cooperative Agreement Number R04/CCR823272-01 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
With more sedentary lives and more available food, our waistlines are growing. In many nations, our diets, although increasingly abundant, provide relatively less healthy foods. It is important for consumers to learn to make better choices in the face of those trends among the multitude of options in the grocery stores and at restaurants.
More is being learned about the health-promoting properties of some foods and food components. The goal of this project was to create a visual guide to healthy foods to support individuals in making better nutritional choices called
Historically in the United States and other countries, whole foods have been categorized into food groups according to the essential nutrients they have in common. The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA)
We felt we could meet this challenge by showing foods ranked within each of the food groups according to their contributions of beneficial and essential nutrients. An educational tool was needed to provide guidance by adding another dimension to the USDA food guidance tools showing specifically what the better food choices are.
Choosing and Ranking the Foods in the
1. First, the
A final criterion, nutrient density, was also included for each food group in our pyramid. Nutrient density is defined as the amount of essential and beneficial nutrients or food components relative to the number of calories in the food. For example, a slice of whole grain bread and a small cupcake provide the same number of calories, but the bread provides more nutrition calorie-for-calorie and thus has a better nutrient density. A nutritionally dense diet contributes positively to the ability to balance calories consumed with those expended and to getting all the essential nutrients in a relatively low-calorie diet.
Table 1 shows the criteria for including and ranking the foods within each food group and the published bases for the recommendations.
Approximately 20-30 food items were selected for ranking within each food group. Only whole foods and not food components were included in
Some foods that have properties that are considered beneficial for some subpopulations (e.g. psyllium, certain fortified margarines, wine) were not included in
Photographs were taken of the selected foods, and the foods were ranked according to how they met the criteria listed in Table 1. Then the photographs were arranged on a continuum of more to less healthy choices within each food group. The geometry of the pyramid whereby the food groups run horizontally, rather than vertically like the newer
Fruits and vegetables were combined into one food group because the nutritional qualities that were being judged were similar. Further, for nutrition education purposes, the standard recommendation for consumption is nine servings per day of fruits and vegetables
The Wise Choices Food Pyramid is an educational tool that supports consumers in making higher quality food choices, thus making a more adequate and healthful diet accessible with minimum effort. Foods are ranked within, and not among, food groups and only comparisons within a food group are described and displayed on
In the past, nutrition professionals have been reluctant to rank foods based on “goodness.” It is sometimes assumed that until there is firm scientific evidence that a ranking system can be agreed upon and scientifically validated, ranking foods should not be done. It is our belief that there is no absolute truth in ranking all foods. Therefore, a system and criteria for ranking all foods will never pass scientific muster.
On the other hand, food manufacturers are not reluctant to make comparative health claims about their products. Because there is only one voice, the typical consumer receives only the messages from those with commercial biases. With
Finally, many considerations go into menu planning or mealtime decisions, including eaters' food preferences, cost, time to prepare, availability of foods, and special dietary needs. When we use
Nutrition professionals counsel consumers that there are many ways for them to choose a diet that contains less added fats, trans-fats and sugars and minimize the natural saturated fats and maximize essential nutrients.
This visual aid to dietary choices was originally conceived for persons who need concrete examples of healthy versus less-healthy food choices. It can be useful for many populations, such as adults on weight loss/maintenance programs, children, seniors, or other individuals with newly diagnosed health conditions or increased health awareness. With
The information provided in this manuscript was supported in part by Cooperative Agreement Number R04/CCR823272-01 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC. The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Blakely Brown, PhD of the Health and Human Performance Department of the University of Montana for student supervision on this project and Neal Wiegert for graphics and design work on
Kathleen Humphries 52 Corbin Hall The University of Montana Missoula, MT 59812 (406)243-2515 email@example.com
Other adapted food pyramids for special populations or purposes.
Functional Food Guide Pyramid from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale http://www.extension.uiuc.edu/~ffh/health/ff_pyramid.html
Mediterranean pyramid http://oldwayspt.org/index.php?area=pyramid_med
Vegetarian pyramids http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/adapyramid.htm http://oldwayspt.org/index.php?area=pyramid_veg
Prader Willi Syndrome pyramid http://www.pwsausa.org/syndrome/foodpyramid.htm
Young Children's pyramid http://www.usda.gov/cnpp/KidsPyra/
Older adults pyramid http://nutrition.tufts.edu/consumer/pyramid.html
Native American pyramid http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/Fpyr/NAmFGP.html
Hispanic/Latin American pyramids http://www.semda.org/info/pyramid.asp?ID=27 http://oldwayspt.org/index.php?area=latin_american_diet
Asian pyramid http://oldwayspt.org/index.php?area=pyramid_asian
Diabetes pyramid http://www.diabetes.org/nutrition-and-recipes/nutrition/foodpyramid.jsp