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Jenny Craig or Bust

The U.S. is currently in an obesity epidemic. 65 percent of adults ages 20 to 74 are overweight, with nearly half of that group morbidly obese. Obesity contributes to over 300,000 deaths a year in the United States and about one-third of all cancer deaths are attributable to poor diet. Four of the top ten causes of death in the United States — heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes — are also associated with obesity. Diet-related health conditions cost tax payers over $250 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity. And it is getting worse and worse. Well, in a concerted effort to try and better educate consumers, the FDA (along with Porter Novelli) just redesigned our food pyramid. It cost $2.5 million dollars.

In an effort to make nutrition information available to consumers, new labeling regulations mandated by the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) originally went into effect in the United States in May 1994. It made package designers deliriously happy and very, very busy—as every single package in U.S. supermarkets had to have these new labels put in place—and thus they all had to be redesigned. Every single one.

The original 1990 law required disclosure of the nutritional content of foods on a standardized label. This of course was based on our first food pyramid.

The subsequent labels were brilliantly designed by Burkey Belser. These regulations updated the list of nutrients that appeared on the nutritional facts panel, standardizing serving sizes, defining nutrient content claims, ultimately providing a mechanism for evaluating health claims. Back in 1994, the change in the labels occurred with less confusion than many had predicted and, according to surveys, accomplished its main goal — a better-informed consumer — because the information was simply more accessible.

Believe it or not, prior to implementation of the NLEA, nutritional information was provided on a voluntary basis by food manufacturers. Government regulations related to nutrient content and health claims were much less stringent. The Food and Drug Administration estimated that the NLEA would cost industry $1.4 billion to $2.3 billion and the government $163 million over the next 20 years, beginning in 1994.

Back then, the objective of the NLEA was to provide consistent, understandable, and usable labels that would help consumers choose healthier foods. Clearly this didn’t work. At the time, the main concern was whether nutritional labels would affect consumer choice and improve nutrient intake and diet quality among Americans. Well, we don’t need any research to verify that it, quite frankly hasn’t happened. All you need to do is read Fast Food Nation or watch the documentary Super Size Me to see for yourself what a frightening state of fat we are truly in.

Well, as of Tuesday, the old pyramid (and soon to be labels) is history. This from the New York Times: “The old food pyramid was turned on its side and outfitted with stairs on Tuesday, as the federal government unveiled its latest effort to offer instant nutrition advice to Americans. The new program, “MyPyramid,” was hailed by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns as a customized, interactive food guidance system. “MyPyramid is about the ability of Americans to personalize their approach when choosing a healthier lifestyle that balances nutrition and exercise,” Mr. Johanns said at a news conference. “Many Americans can dramatically improve their overall health by making modest improvements to their diets and by incorporating regular physical activity into their daily lives.”

The Agriculture Department says that 80 percent of Americans recognized the (old) pyramid. But Mr. Johanns acknowledged that few followed its recommendations.

“It became clear,” Mr. Johanns said, “that we needed to do a much better job of communicating the nutrition messages so that Americans could understand how to begin making positive changes in their lifestyles. And, of course, another thing is very obvious: the science has evolved since the original label was created, with additional research on issues including the nutritional content of foods and food consumption patterns.”

Like its predecessor, the revised pyramid and its web site, are based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published in January by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. This time, the pyramid is a series of vertical color bands of varying widths. The bands of fruits and vegetables combined take up the most space, followed by grains, with the narrowest bands still belonging to fats, oils and sugars. Also new is the stick figure walking up the left side of the pyramid to match the guide’s slogan: “Steps to a healthier you.”

The new pyramid comes in 12 versions, depending on a person’s activity level and caloric need. “One pyramid does not fit all of us,” Mr. Johanns said, “so we created 12 different ones.”

At the news conference, Mr. Johanns emphasized moderation and even turned to the fitness celebrity Denise Austin, a member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, to push the exercise component. But there seem to be only hints about eating less of anything, like the suggestion to “know the limits on fats, sugars and salt.”

“The pyramid is incredible to me,” said Dr. Carlos Arturo Camargo Jr., an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and a member of the dietary guidelines advisory committee. “The whole concept of replacing unhealthy food with healthy food is very hard to find. I’m pretty skeptical this graphic is going to produce many healthy people except for some highly motivated ones.”

In an early draft of the pyramid by the international marketing firm Porter Novelli, which was hired to create a suitable symbol (for $2.5 million), the pinnacle was topped by the word “occasionally” for foods like pastries; “daily” was the word for foods at the base, like whole-wheat bread.

Porter Novelli referred all calls to the Agriculture Department, which would not comment on the disappearance of this information, saying it was not the agency’s pyramid. (And frankly, who could blame them for that???)

The goal of the pyramid program was to condense the 70-page Dietary Guidelines into a graphic that would be useful to the public; the Web site was designed to help consumers personalize the guidelines. To learn exactly how many cups of vegetables the government recommends, for example, consumers must submit their age, sex and level of daily exercise to the web site.

But the Agriculture Department has no budget to promote the Dietary Guidelines or the pyramid. Instead, it plans to rely on marketing by the food industry and dissemination of information by nutritionists, physicians and organizations interested in promoting good health. The Grocery Manufacturers of America, for example, plans to use inserts in the Weekly Reader newspapers for children in the fourth through sixth grades. This, quite understandably, should have kids running to the web site for more info.

Alison Kretser, an official with the grocery association, said that using the food industry to get out the message “is the passing of the baton to the food industry to help educate Americans to make small changes to meet the guidelines.”

Apparently, most consumers rate the new labels “much better” or “somewhat better” than the old style. Enhanced readability was a positive comment, as well as better information on the listings for Dietary Fiber and, particularly, Total Fat and Calories from Fat. Younger consumers are more likely to read nutritional labels than are older consumers. A majority of consumers are familiar with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid, also commonly carried on food labels today, although the degree of adherence by consumers to all its recommendations appears to be rather low.

Hmmmm, I wonder why.

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PUBLISHED ON Apr.21.2005 BY debbie millman
Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

I'm glad to see this addressed. Having done my thesis research on some of the very problems Debbie talks about, I continue following these issues on an almost daily basis.

The pyramid has not, does not, and will not solve the obesity problem. If it enables people to grasp nutrition in a more concrete way, they still have to fight through the morass of images and advertisements seen on a daily basis that direct/persuade them to eat food products instead of making healthy choices. When broccoli or apples have as much real estate in the media as Kraft or Kellogg's, I expect to see cats living with dogs.

I could carry on forever with distaste, but instead, I'm thinking about moving to France where the women (and maybe men) don't get fat or at the very least avoiding the supermarket's interior aisles all together. Until then, I'll wonder what designers can do about this and craft some of my own solutions for submission to the AdCouncil, CDC, FDA, and President's Council on Fitness. Surely, there's plenty of grant money to finance campaigns, websites, educational tools, or information graphics.

On Apr.21.2005 at 10:52 PM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

> Until then, I'll wonder what designers can do about this

Jason, designers can't do much unless the food supply is healthier. The combination of large agri-businesses like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill (possibly the world's largest privately owned corporation), various lobbying efforts that create farming subsidies for low-value commodities like corn (high-fructose corn syrup, ethanol, etc.), and farming methods which contribute to a decline in the quality of North American topsoil (studies presented at the Earth Summit in Rio suggest 85% less mineral content than 100 years ago) result in a diminished food supply.

Nutrition awareness is only part of the story. What's needed is greater political and ecological awareness, and probably more international travel. Because, spending time in another country — with a sensitivity towards the small differences of taste, quality, well being and bowel movements — can do more to open your eyes than reading yet another governmental guideline. Ask my wife; she'll give you an earful. In this country she has all sorts of food reactions to wheat, cheese and milk; anywhere else — no problems.

Just 25 miles across the border, I can sit in a restaurant in Montreal and have beef that actually tastes like beef. Mexican beef? Amazing. Mexican chocolate? Now you're talking.

Actually... maybe designers can do something. We're trained to be judgmental toward small details, so maybe we need to just be more judgmental and pass that meme along — a viral marketing campaign to improve the food supply.

Debbie, I found it interesting that Porter Novelli was the agency for the pyramid redesign. Tooling around their website, I notice that they're the ones who helped introduce http://www.cspinet.org/quorn/quornpr_032102.html" target="_blank"> Quorn. Yum!

On Apr.22.2005 at 01:22 AM
Daniel Green’s comment is:

Not being a food or nutritional scientist, I can’t assess the quality of science behind the old pyramid vs. the new pyramid.

However, I fear that this new solution is hobbled by the additional complexity it add to people’s decision making process.

I’ve seen very well-intentioned efforts to promote health go astray by assuming that the solution lies in giving people MORE information, MORE access to data, MORE choices. However, the more complex the solution becomes, the more you risk losing the audience that you need to address.

I’m not advocating the “dumbing-down” of health information. Since food chemistry and body chemistry create a complex set of variables (even without the addition of physical exercise), it would be a disservice to oversimplify.

On the other hand, except for those with a medically diagnosed problem, people need to have an approach to their health and diet that is not viewed as more work than it’s worth.

On Apr.22.2005 at 09:03 AM
Doug Fuller’s comment is:

Funny, when I went to the official pyramid site, I kept reading it as McPyramid instead of MyPyramid.

Also, I wonder how much of the $2.5 mil went to the clip-art guy running up the pyramid?

On Apr.22.2005 at 09:25 AM
Patrick C’s comment is:

Good God! It looks like that graphic (the pyramid) was created in the 70s and dug out of storage. Even the type is hideous. It's not even easy, at first or second glance, to figure out, based on the graphic elements, how much of what you're supposed to be eating.

But of course it wouldn't matter how well the thing was designed, the food pyramid is never going to change people's eating habits.

On Apr.22.2005 at 09:42 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

I have my doubts about the nutritional advice. Not really—no doubt that it is, if not generally wrong, at least not universally right. But the old pyramid was clearly an information graphic: It made something clearer and easier to digest (if you’ll excuse the expression.)

The new one is some sort of marketing symbol. It is not of direct educational utility. Apparently the only reason they have a pyramid is because they used to have a pyramid and now they want a new one.

On Apr.22.2005 at 11:11 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

All the design in the world won't change the fact that the US goernment's food pyramid data is compiled more by food lobbyists than nutrition scientists.

On Apr.22.2005 at 11:26 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Salon offers their take:


On Apr.22.2005 at 11:27 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

And really, 2.5 MILLION dollars?

What if that were spent on healthy school lunches instead?

On Apr.22.2005 at 11:28 AM
Chris Rugen’s comment is:

Good point, Darrel. Or how about paying schools to replace soda machines with juice machines?

The US just isn't set up (physically, mentally, geographically) to truly change the way it eats on a national scale. Easy, fast, with faraway expiration dates and flavor overload. This is what matters here in the US. Plus, things like this ignore most lower-income urban realities: fast food on the corner, right next to the liquor stores, and the grocery stores are 5 miles away.

Perhaps it's time for a 'Dangerously Overweight Alertness Level' bar on the Homeland Security website.

On Apr.22.2005 at 11:43 AM
Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

kingsley, you are right. This is an economic, political, and sociological problem. But that doesn't mean designers can't get involved at some level. Design can inform, persuade, educate, or penetrate. Viral marketing may be one way, but I'd rather start at the top—create change from within—or perhaps the bottom. Children are where it's at. Starting there, and educating them through visual communication seems like a positive and constructive way to address this matter. This $2.5 million dollar graphic still doesn't show what a portion size looks like, but if it's the beginning of something more, I'm waiting to see what they have planned after mypyramid (sounds like a game show).

On Apr.22.2005 at 11:54 AM
graham’s comment is:


this happened recently in the u.k.

On Apr.22.2005 at 11:58 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Or how about paying schools to replace soda machines with juice machines?

Aha! Proof that you've fallen for the lobbyist-written food pyrymid! ;o)

(Fruit drinks are about as unhealthy as Soda is ;o)

Children are where it's at. Starting there

There's just no competing with McDonald's add/lobbying budget. ;o)

Graham...there's *finally* a bit of a move in some school districts to bring in organic, fresh food in stead of the heavily processed crap the government and/or subway/mcd's/tacobell/pepsi/coke bring in.

We have a long way to go since we've basically sold out our children to the fast food industries in their own schools.

On Apr.22.2005 at 12:23 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Or how about paying schools to replace soda machines with juice machines?

Actually, fruit juices are very fattening, they have a high amount of sugar, it's not crappy soda sugar but sugar nonetheless. Every nutrionist (and I have seen a few in my lifetime) will tell you to avoid, by all means, fruit juices. Just think about it, how many oranges do you need to make a decent-size glass of OJ? Five? Six? Eight? One glass of OJ accounts for way more than the recommended amount of fruit intake daily — which is 3 to 4 pieces a day.

On Apr.22.2005 at 12:24 PM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

> Design can inform, persuade, educate, or penetrate. Viral marketing may be one way, but I'd rather start at the top—create change from within—or perhaps the bottom.

Oh, if I had a nickel every time someone used the old "change from within"...

Jason, unless the CEO of Cargill has a "Saul on the road to Damascus" moment, or you have some grand master 10-year plan; I'll just see your idealism as simply that.

> ...it's not crappy soda sugar but sugar nonetheless.

Actually, it is more likely high-fructose corn syrup... brought to you by the good folks at Archer Daniels Midland — and the same shit that's in American soda.

On Apr.22.2005 at 12:44 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

>And really, 2.5 MILLION dollars?

Right??? I mean come on, the figure walking up the steps looks like it was taken from a clip art book. Could the legs be any more pointy?

Why, oh why couldn't Porter Novelli (a pr firm) have a design firm work with them on this? Could they possibly think that what they created was any good?!?

And we wonder why "designers" get a bad wrap. Porter Novell owed it to the "communications industry" to do everything they could to make sure an icon of this magnitude was a compelling piece of communication. And they failed. Which means we all fail in the process.


On Apr.22.2005 at 12:50 PM
Chris Rugen’s comment is:

Hmm. Well, fattening or not, it's better than Diet Coke in class. Particularly all that caffeine. I didn't know that it was 'bad' for you, though. Guess it's good my wife cuts all of hers with seltzer. But I'll never stop! Fruit Juice 4 Lyfe!

I actually watched the video, and it seems to be founded on good ideas/intentions, but they ended up with an abstract logo, not a useful info-graphic. I like that excercise is integrated as a key part of diet and weight management, but the pyramid itself is too complex visually and conceptually. The worst part? All of the complexity doesn't add to immediate comprehension. This PDF pretty much demonstrates why the symbol is PR fluff, not a useful guide. Too much implied meaning. Frankly, I like the bars at the bottom more. At least they have labels.

A symbol like this wouldn't have made it out of my college design studios, why is it here?

On Apr.22.2005 at 01:10 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

The pyramid graphic wth the food groups in it. Looks like it all is smooshed into a garbage heap.

On Apr.22.2005 at 01:23 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Michael Bierut over at Design Observer just posted a piece on the new pyramid as well. He is my guest today on Design Matters, so this topic should likely come up...

On Apr.22.2005 at 01:41 PM
Daniel Green’s comment is:

Fruit drinks are about as unhealthy as Soda is

While fruit juice is not the end-all-be-all of a healthy diet (and often doesn't include the fiber of a piece of fruit), please don't confuse real juice with cleverly marketed "juice-drinks" (perhaps containing as little as 2% real juice), which, as M. Kingsley has pointed out, contain a lot of corn-syrup.

On Apr.22.2005 at 01:42 PM
Darrel’s comment is:


Good point, but even something like 100% pure Apple juice really offers no redeeming nutrional value and only adds a ton of sugar to the diet.

On Apr.22.2005 at 02:27 PM
Ricardo Cordoba’s comment is:

Thanks for writing about this, Debbie. I couldn’t believe the over-simplified graphic when I first saw it earlier this week! How is this supposed to inform us better than the older pyramid? And what about someone who doesn’t have a computer, or an internet connection? In what way does this accomplish the design goal of communicating actual information, let alone information for the common good?

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Information Center has a 42-page PDF with information about the background and development of the 1992 food guide, including many of the different types of graphics (not all of them were pyramids) that they tested in exploratory focus groups. It would be interesting to see the research that went into this new, “improved” graphic.

It’s sad to learn that those Nutrition Facts labels will be going, too.

On Apr.22.2005 at 04:07 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

I missed this quote from Debbies post:

"Instead, it plans to rely on marketing by the food industry"

Well, there you go. Nothing's changed other than we (the public) are out 2.5 million.

On Apr.22.2005 at 04:14 PM
Matt’s comment is:

Until nutritional guides are no longer driven by special interest groups, I don't see much light on the horizon.

I find it amazing that the dairy industry lobby is still powerful enough to get its own food group and that regualr intake is endorsed as good nutrition.

How long will it be before McDonald's gets it's own wedge on the pyramid... (not daily, but...)

On Apr.22.2005 at 04:27 PM
Matt’s comment is:

I can't believe I just used it's where I should have used its...

And I just finished reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves!

On Apr.22.2005 at 04:34 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

How long will it be before McDonald's gets its own wedge on the pyramid... (not daily, but...)


On Apr.22.2005 at 05:08 PM
Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

Jason, unless the CEO of Cargill has a "Saul on the road to Damascus" moment, or you have some grand master 10-year plan; I'll just see your idealism as simply that.


On Apr.22.2005 at 05:13 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Enough with the smilies people.

\: (

On Apr.22.2005 at 05:49 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

>How long will it be before McDonald's gets its own wedge on the pyramid...

Like Doug Fuller, I also keep "seeing" McPyramid as opposed to My Pyramid. Somehow, it seems perilously close to a realistic outcome...kind of like when Reagan determined that ketchup could fulfill a vegetable requirement in school lunches.

On Apr.22.2005 at 05:55 PM
Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

Ketchup...the liquid vegetable. And potatoes make up nearly 100% of Americans vegetable intake, although they're usually of the French fried or chip variety.

On Apr.22.2005 at 06:34 PM
Dino’s comment is:

The image is too much, more noise than information. The image is not self explanatory and it requires a dissertation to get its point across.

Why is the pictograph person running up the steps, is there a goal --to sit on the top?


On Apr.22.2005 at 07:06 PM
Joe Marianek’s comment is:

evidently, the marketing folks at Porter Novelli had a case of the munchies

On Apr.22.2005 at 07:11 PM
gregor’s comment is:

Until then, I'll wonder what designers can do about this

largely designers have contributed to the problem. outside of a minority of socially responsible individuals, designers follow the money. we all have our excuses and we have heard the excuses. as a group we use our creative and intellectual skills to contribute to the current state of affairs -- the obesity problem is but one.

A nice article in Comm Arts (yes they still have an occassional good article) by Sharoz Makarechi asks:

What if just one of the two eight-story walls graced with Paris Hilton and her pet du jour, was replaced with a portrait of an African woman gripping pictures of members of her family who’d perished from AIDS?

What if the side of one in 50 buildings available as media was covered with pictures that document the human condition around the world?

What if for just one minute each day, all the glittering digital billboards in Times Square were replaced with raw, true, current, meaningful images from around the world?

Each year, Dick Clark shows the crowds at Times Square how the rest of the world is bringing in the New Year; in real time. What if that technology and media space were used to show us how regular people are going about their lives in Iraq, Israel, Cambodia or Sudan?

What if?

just imagine that.... here's the online version of the article

On Apr.22.2005 at 09:15 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

I think the image that we're looking at is incomplete. Anyone with visual sensitivity is going to find the triangle hard to look at. However if you ignore what your eyes are seeing and read the two page pdf on the web site, the information on the second page seems a bite more understandable. It's the ppt version. Now, if anyone changes the Canadian version, there might be trouble...

On Apr.22.2005 at 10:56 PM
Elizabeth’s comment is:

A quick comment about French women not getting fat--this obesity epidemic is already spreading to other Western countries. The book's core "secret" to nutrition is the same as what any nutritionist or doctor would tell you: eat small portions of healthy food, eat slowly, don't snack, and exercise...

As a former resident of Paris, I noticed that the book failed to mention that French women are the heaviest smokers and consumers of alcohol of all the women in Europe (and likely the rest of the world)... So phrasing any book about weight loss or nutrition as some sort of secret only adds to the complexes Americans already have about their diets--and encourages a healthy diet to be regarded as a fad as opposed to a lifestyle.

On Apr.23.2005 at 11:42 AM
graham’s comment is:

that pyramid thing is insane.

it has to be a piss-take.

if milk is a 'food group' then idiots are a species.

On Apr.24.2005 at 10:56 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Michael Bierut and Armin Vit created a new (and much more understandable) Pyramid in todays Week in Review section of the New York Times. Definitely worth seeing. I'll see if Armin can post it here.

On Apr.24.2005 at 09:38 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Until they do, it’s here

On Apr.24.2005 at 10:38 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Thanks Gunnar, yeah, that's the graphic which accompanies this article. Basically, the idea — concocted quickly — was to make it simple and understandable, and one thing that Americans acknowledge and know how to read is the nutrition facts labels. So why not make the pyramid into something that is easily graspable? Having the percentages is something that puts things in perspective quickly. Of all the shit you eat during the day you know that 30% of it has to be veggies and only 1.5% can be oils. Plus the exercise percentage which is my favorite: only 2% of all day is what you need to exercise. Not much.

And we also got paid 2.5 Million for it, we split it halfway — I'm buying a boat.

[For the internets’ posterity sake: No, we did not get paid 2.5 Million, it's just a joke]

On Apr.25.2005 at 09:01 AM
Darrel’s comment is:


Looks good, alas, still tainted with bad data. ;o)

I do like the percentages idea. Seems simple enough, but something the pyramid concept has never really been able to visually communicate well.

On Apr.25.2005 at 09:51 AM
Amanda Woodward’s comment is:

They payed 2.5 mil for THAT? *sigh* is right.

I hear the Canadian Food Guide IS under review for change right now...which I am sure will mean a redesign as well. Something about reducing car portions and increasing protein? I don't know details. Kinda makes me sad is some respects, I like the old school look of it. I have it on my fridge for a daily reminder.

On Apr.25.2005 at 01:46 PM
Amanda Woodward’s comment is:

whoops. WhenI said car, I meant carb. Reducing cars would be silly madness.

On Apr.25.2005 at 01:47 PM
marian’s comment is:

I've been spending some time with my friend Gillian, her husband, Steve, and her 3 kids (ages 4 and under). Gill and Steve are both scinetists: Gill at the College of Vet. Med, and Steve in Agricultural Science.

Mealtimes at their place are hilarious, as they regularly refer to the foods they are eating as "carbohydrates" or "fibre" etc. (They also use some more technical terms, which i can't remember.) The other day I brought some steaks over for dinner, and proudly announced "I've brought masses of protein!"

They also tell their kids what the foods are for, e.g. "It makes your bones grow." or "They give you energy." And the kids often ask, e.g. "Mummy, what does honey do?" (answer "Absolutely nothing, it just tastes good.") or "Daddy, do peas help you poop?" (Answer "Yes, they help you poop." which meets with approval.)

And the best part about it is it isn't done in a preachy, indoctrinating way, Gill and Steve are just having fun with it, joking around, and yet unwittingly or not, their kids seem to really be into eating things that "do" something for them.

Fancy that.

On Apr.25.2005 at 02:37 PM
marian’s comment is:

I was just in the process of double-posting this over at DO, when I got a call from Gill. For the education of Speak Up readers, here are the details I couldn't remember from my post above:

It's not uncommon for Steve to offer "simple sugars," "complex carbohydrates," or even "sulfer-containing amino acids" at the dinner table. Gill also unleashed an amusing flood of detail on micro-nutrients, pulses (e.g. peas) a quick diatribe on "crystal gazing vegetarians" vs. "scientific vegetarians", something called "amego-3" ("vs. amego-9, which is bad"), the 21 essential amino acids in protein and the revelation (to me) that a peanut-butter sandwich (the peanut-butter and bread combined) contains a full complement of the essential amino acids.)

On Apr.25.2005 at 03:10 PM
Darrel’s comment is:


You need to team up with Steve to design a resturaunt menu!

On Apr.25.2005 at 04:55 PM
graham’s comment is:

marian and her friends are talking about real actual food groups.

is it weird in america for people to know that for example meat is protein, and to refer to fibre and carbohydrates and sugars (i.e. food groups)? is it unusual for kids to wonder and for people to know that for example calcium is good for teeth and bones when you're little?

marian, are you saying that the situation you describe is rare?

surely not . . .

On Apr.25.2005 at 04:56 PM
marian’s comment is:

is it weird in america for people to know that for example meat is protein, and to refer to fibre and carbohydrates and sugars (i.e. food groups)?

No, i don't think it's weird. This is basic common knowledge ... to me, anyway, and I think it's generally widely known. (However I know nothing about most "average" N.American families.)

Gill and Steve just take it to an amusing and educational extreme, and that is rare. But it's interesting how they make what is complex information (far more so than the food pyramid) accessible to a 2- and 4-yr-old.

On Apr.25.2005 at 10:30 PM
Jefferson’s comment is:

I am so glad to hear some dialog about this. I agree with Darrel’s comment about food lobbyists. I think it’s obvious to designers that labeling requirements and design standards could be vastly improved; however, any real improvements would devastate a food industry build on unhealthy junk food. Until enough people, or designers, demand clearer information the lobbyist will try their hardest to keep Americans in the dark.

I have been doing some side work on improving nutrition labels through better information design (as in Edward Tufte) and modular design. If anyone has seen similar research, or has some ideas, I’d love the input. Thanks.

On Apr.26.2005 at 03:04 PM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

You might like to know the Oldways food pyramids 'based on worldwide dietary traditions closely associated with good health'; Asian, Latin, Mediterranean and Vegetarian.

And there it is — on each one — moderate alcohol consumption recommended. One would think the US beer and liquor lobbies could've gotten a little slice of the action, no?

On Apr.26.2005 at 03:42 PM
Mark Seggie’s comment is:

DESIGN APB: Malnourished Otto Neurath Isotype has escaped from a maximum security facility. Last seen ascending a set of stairs. Perpetrator has discarded healthy food at base of pyramid in search of sugar fix. Armed with 'talon-like' weapons. Believed to be carrying $2.5 million. Approach with caution!

On Apr.27.2005 at 07:37 AM
Armin’s comment is:

"I've always wanted to be buried for all eternity in a giant food pyramid, with my toaster and chicken rotisserie preserved next to me in ceremonial urns."

More opinions at The Onion.

On Apr.27.2005 at 08:37 AM
Rob’s comment is:

Explaining food to kids, like it helps your bones grow or makes them stronger (calcium) is all the rage in our house at meal time for our 3 and 6-year olds. For one thing, it makes them conscious of what they are eating and that it affects them from their heads down to their toes.

Can anyone remember the name of the kid's show back in the 70's that was centered around the food pyramid? I keep thinking it came on after H&R Puff'n'Stuff but can't remember the name of the show. Could the new pyramid mark new life for the series? Will their outfits feature the muticolored bands, or will they have 12 costume changes in 1/2 an hour? The questions are endless.

On Apr.28.2005 at 10:58 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Ha!: mypyramid.ORG

On Apr.28.2005 at 11:17 AM
Christine Lorenz’s comment is:

Exactly when did the USDA come to stand for the U. S. Department of Agribusiness? I hadn't realized it until I looked at their McPyramid site. Somehow, that little change helps the pieces of this mess fall into place for me.

On Apr.28.2005 at 01:03 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

WebMD gets personal with MyPiramid. It looks like they have been studying.

On Apr.30.2005 at 10:22 AM
Mark’s comment is:

when the guy reaches the top of the pyramid does he then slide down the pyrmaid? LOL

sure-clipartastic design with lots of pretty bright colors that have zero identification SURELY IS informational but a dull pyramid in black that seperates the food groups in a clear cut fashion AND illustrates in easy-to-use way the types of food they refer to is TOO MUCH EYE CANDY TO UNDERSTAND!!!! (I'm being sacrastic BTW)

lets see if I can remember the food groups that I learned in elementary school.


bread,dairy,protein,fruits,vegetables,and sweets

not bad for an outdated pyramid.

this so-called "update" and "improvement" to the food pyramid is all the more reason to scrap the "pyramid scheme" altogether no pun intended for a more informational way of conveying nutritional info.

how about a pictoral depiction of how much the recommended servings look like next to the recommended servings IN TEXT! of each food group.

sure that would take long BUT IT WOULD BE MORE ACCURATE!

better than some randomly selected neon colors that look pretty with zero info on them at all.

On Jul.25.2006 at 01:48 PM