Remember when the government revised its food pyramid three years ago, only to confuse Americans with its 12 versions and staircase on the side?
The people at the Harvard School of Public Health certainly do. They set out to create a guide to good nutrition that uses the familiar pyramid shape but incorporates current research findings in a more straightforward way.
“We would really like to see nutrition applied in daily life,” Lilian Cheung, director of health promotion and communication in the nutrition department, said in an interview. “We want to demystify the whole subject.”
The new model (above), called the Healthy Eating Pyramid, is searchable, downloadable, and free. It’s part of a relaunched site The Nutrition Source that breaks down diet components, with links to research, and shares recipes from well-known chefs Mollie Katzen, Nina Simonds, and Ming Tsai. Restaurant-scale meals are included, too, from The Culinary Institute of America to Harvard’s own Sebastian’s Cafe, the cafeteria at the School of Public Health.
The updated pyramid, based on data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, has four components that differ from the US Department of Agriculture’s 2005 recommendations. Exercise and weight control are at the base of the pyramid to stress their importance, vitamin D is added in a bottle off to the side reflecting deficiencies many people have, dairy is limited to two servings a day because more doesn’t help, and sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas are added to the pyramid’s tip, in the “use sparingly” category that also includes red meat, salt, and refined grains, the site says.
And that wine glass? That means moderate drinking can offer health benefits to many people, but it’s not for everyone. So don’t start.
by Elizabeth Cooney May 13, 2008