View Full Version : To Heck with the Four Food Groups

03-05-2010, 06:37 PM
To Heck with the Four Food Groups

Ag and Trade | Food | Health
Four groups? Three squares? A renowned family physician, taking aim at starch propaganda, says it's time to reinvent the dinner plate.

By Michael Fine M.D.

Body Logic

The old-style "balanced diet" had an overabundance of grains and potatoes, the better to make you diabetic.

Between 1985 and 2000, American food producers increased their output by 700 calories per person, to 3900 calories per person. During those years, the average caloric intake in the US went up by 300 to 400 calories. The bulk of that increase was from the consumption of foods made from corn, which increased 300 percent, and from wheat, which increased 150 percent. In 15 years!!!

Every plate, at every meal, at every table in every home and restaurant in America has the same appearance. Three items. Protein – meat or fish – vegetables, for complex carbohydrates, fiber and other nutrients, and starch, for energy, the holy trinity of eating in America. Where did this come from? I remember hearing about four food groups, and the need for a balanced diet, as I was growing up in the nineteen fifties and sixties, and always assumed that the whole concept was a government recommendation designed to insure good nutrition, so people would grow strong and resilient. The four food groups – milk, meats, vegetables and fruits, and breads and cereal -- showed up on lots of posters and pictures that would be displayed in cafeterias and health classes across the country, and those food groups put a government-approved, quasi-scientific stamp, on American eating.

By indicating the number of servings a day of each food that Americans were supposed to eat, USDA made it clear that starch was king – four servings a day meant one serving at each meal plus one starch snack. The pictures of the plates on those posters and charts – one zone for meat, one for vegetables, and one for starch -- imprinted the construction of meals on the brains of all Americans, so most of us can’t conceptualize a meal that doesn’t include potatoes, fries, or pasta, or rice. Purveyors of fast food capitalize on the ambiguity of potatoes – a vegetable that is also a starch, and purports to give you two groups in one item at each meal --- thus the rise of French Fries.

The notion of four food groups sounded like propaganda to a country coming off two major wars, and to people accustomed, in the late forties and early fifties, to regulations and recommendations from a government focused on war economies, in a country trying to get the most effective use of limited resources. So few people suspected that the four food groups, like most government recommendations about eating and nutrition, had significant food industry input.

Interesting look at food propaganda/agricultural smoke and mirrors.

Daily Yonder (http://www.dailyyonder.com/four-food-groups/2010/03/04/2623)