Food Groups, Food Pyramids, Food Fantasies


When I was a kid we were taught one of the most despicable lies in the history of human nutrition.  We were taught that there were four “Basic Food” groups:

  1. Vegetables and Fruits
  2. Milk
  3. Meat
  4. Cereals and Breads

Since this formulation of food “groups” was entirely political and unscientific, I’m a bit surprised that tobacco didn’t get its group!  After all, as one North Carolina senator reputedly complained (apparently tongue in cheek), “the dairy industry got its group, the meat industry got its group, why shouldn’t we get ours?”

Things have improved a little – but not much – as we evolved from the “Basic Four” to My Pyramid and now to My Plate, both of which offer similarly disingenuous “groups” of foods: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy.

What, pray tell, is a “protein food?”  This imaginative creation, sanctioned by our ever-adaptive U.S. Department of Agriculture, sends a funny message to the public.  Since there is protein in broccoli, why isn’t it in this “protein food” group?

Maybe we should fabricate just three, very small, food groups:

  1. The “Not Protein” Group
  2. The “Not Fat” Group
  3. The “Not Carbohydrate” Group

In this way we could just isolate the unique specimens of stuff that we put in our mouths that do not contain one or another of these macronutrients that we find in virtually everything we eat!

Real food – as opposed to junk as we have defined it – will deliver the macro and micro nutrients that you need in the amounts that you need.  It’s as simple as that.  Just don’t put junk in your mouth and you will get exactly what you need, without having to worry about a food plate or food pyramid or food “group.”