This poster was created in 1919. The government thought this constituted a healthy meal. A lot has changed about our dietary needs. We have had years of carb loading as an official government policy. The USDA has again changed its guidelines. The food pyramid asking us to eat six to eleven servings a day of bread, cereal, rice and pasta has been replaced. Since 2011, we have a simpler graphic of a plate divided into sections for vegetables, fruit, protein and grains. You can have a little dairy on the side.
What have been the past recommendations by the government for nutrition? What other posters have been issued? Do you think we are now making the best recommendations?
The U.S. government early on recommended few fruits and vegetables. The focus was on having enough protein. Workers needed protein for energy to do a hard day’s work. Vitamins were discovered in the early 1900’s. Then, fruits and vegetables started getting better billing. Healthy meals still revolved around milk. The nation’s top nutrition experts advised drinking whole milk over skim for kids. They also advised buttering their bread. Use plenty of butter. The government also recommended a dinner consisting of milk toast, stewed peaches, and a cupcake.
The government started publishing some nutrition guidelines for children in this 1939 poster and some pamphlets in the early 1930s. People were more aware about getting the vitamins they needed. The USDA recommended cereal that was vitamin-enriched. Lots of butter was still suggested. Specific recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) were introduced around 1941.
The USDA decided to reduce the 12 major food groups it had recognized since 1933 down to 7. They were called “The Basic 7.” The agency printed this poster the following year in 1943 to illustrate the new system. Butter and fortified margarine were their own category. Both contain vitamin A. Recommended daily allowances were not included for the groups until 1946. Experts advised eating from all the groups. This 1943 poster is probably familiar to many readers.
By the 1990s, the government realized that our diets were too high in fat. It was recognized as a cause of heart disease. As a result, the USDA created the food pyramid. The pyramid advised sparing consumption of fats. Instead, it told us to eat plenty of bread, cereal, pasta, and rice. This poster was published around 1992.
The next nutrition poster iteration appeared as this in 2000. The Team Nutrition campaign advised plenty of food from the bread group. Kids were encouraged to eat more grain, fruit, and vegetables. Less fat was encouraged. Some odd suggestions were in it. Eat more vegetables such as potato salad and french fries. Have some pudding for dairy. Click to embiggen.
To much fanfare on June 2, 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled the latest version of recommendations known as the MyPlate campaign.
MyPlate illustrates the five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy diet using a familiar image—a place setting for a meal. Before you eat, think about what goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl.
Choose from the following: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Protein Foods, and Dairy. Within the link, each group is illustrated with links to examples of the various choices.
What do you think? Have we made the right kind of progress with nutritional information campaigns over the years? Are there approaches you feel would be better? Do you have first-hand experience and insight you can offer?