Groups, Pyramids, Labels and Plates: The Evolution of Nutritional Guidelines

In 1830 Adolphe Quetelet created the Body Mass Index (BMI) formula and ever since people have been obsessed with their BMI. Okay, a bit oversimplified.

Over the years there have been numerous attempts at identifying ways to maximize nutrition through a variety of guidelines.  With National Nutrition Month underway, let’s review some of the attempts at nutritional guidance over the years.


Amidst World War II rationing, in 1943, the Basic Seven was introduced. It divided foods into 7 groups:

BasicSeven 1943 Nutrition Month Cambro Blog

Did You Know: The Culinary Institute of America was founded in 1946 to provide veterans with professional training.


In 1956, Essentials of an Adequate Diet, cut those prior 7 food groups to a more manageable four:

1956 Adequate Diet - Cambro Blog - Nutrition Month


The next big step in nutritional guidelines occurred in 1992 when the Food Pyramid was introduced. It broke down food groups into 6 categories with daily serving recommendations.

1992 USDA_Food_Pyramid Cambro Blog Nutrition Month


In 2005, things got personal with the Food Pyramid becoming everyone’s Pyramid with a name change to MyPyramid and food groups became wedges of the pyramid instead of bricks. Also, a stairwell on the side of the pyramid was included to indicate the importance of exercise.

myPyramid Cambro Blog Nutrition Month


We round out the latest revision to nutritional guidelines with the MyPlate introduction. Designed to represent a physical meal, the plate literally states what percentage of the plate one of the four main food groups is supposed to occupy. Dairy was an addition to the plate.

My Plate - Cambro Blog - Nutrition MonthAnd just recently the way our food is labeled will change. The Nutritional labels will highlight calories and servings per container.

nutritionlabel cambro blog nutrition month

One comment

  1. Reblogged this on Alexandra caturano and commented:
    This is a really interesting post showing how the USDA has changed the food pyramid over the past century. What started as a wheel of seven food groups – each of equal value, including butter and margarine – has turned into a more of a “plate” that includes only four (and a half) categories. The current, official food pyramid groups all of our food into four categories: fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins. Dairy is a little “bowl” off to the side, insinuating that it’s okay in moderation.

    I find it very interesting that meats, legumes, and beans have been clumped together into the “protein” category of equal value to fruits, rather than their own tiny category at the top of the pyramid. On one hand, it really makes more sense – protein is found in more than just meat and beans. It is found in fish (which the 2005 pyramid completely left out) as well as eggs, nuts and seeds. And it is really up to people to decide the sources from which they want to get their protein. There is probably nothing wrong with eating more lean and healthy meats than what the original food pyramid recommended, and likewise nothing wrong with consuming protein from other sources instead.

    The 2005 and previous pyramids assumed that people were not vegetarians or followed any sort of alternative food lifestyle, whereas the current model displays the proper proportions for almost anyone. It leaves much of the decision-making to the consumer; it is no longer a looming reminder of the “proper” nutrition we learned as middle school health students about what is right or wrong for your health. Everybody is different and follows different dietary guidelines in our modern society. However, we all undeniably need a proper daily intake of fruits and vegetables – so kudos to the USDA for finally making vegetables equal to grains on the food pyramid. Really, could it every be unhealthy to eat too many vegetables?

Leave a Reply