The votes are in — kids like the new food guide pyramid. But it wasn't a landslide (which means one side won by a lot more than the other). About 500 kids participated in our survey and here's what they said:
- 53% said they liked it
- 26% said they weren't sure
- 21% said they did not like it
Except for still being a triangle, the new pyramid isn't much like the old one. The old one was made of different-sized blocks that stood for the different food groups. Grain foods (like breads and pasta) made the base and the tiny tip was made of fats and sweets. The new model has splashy, vertical stripes and a staircase running up one side to show the importance of exercise. One kid said it looked like "a pie graph — only triangular."
Briana, 11, said she loves the new pyramid, especially the staircase. The new model is easier to understand. She thinks it's trying to say: "Stay healthy and be on top of the world!"
More Color — Good or Bad?
Other kids said the new pyramid rocks because it's more colorful. Five stripes stand for the five food groups. The sixth stripe stands for oils:
- orange — grains
- green — vegetables
- red — fruits
- blue — milk and dairy products
- purple — meat, beans, fish, and nuts
- yellow — oils
The colors weren't an improvement for Abby, 12. She said the colors didn't really match their groups.
"Purple for meat? Ewww!" she said.
But Jessica, 12, said the new pyramid's colors were trying to send this message: "You have to eat all (the different food groups) to have a healthy body, just like how you need all the colors to make a 'healthy' rainbow."
Other kids said the new pyramid is better because it's more specific. For instance, the different widths of each color band give people an idea of how much they need. And the bands get thinner at the top, to show that, in every food group, some foods are healthier than others.
Of course, you should eat more of the healthy ones. With grains, for instance, a slice of whole-wheat toast is more nutritious than a doughnut, so the wheat bread would be in the wide part and the doughnut in the narrow top.
Where Are the Pictures?
But the trouble for some kids was that there aren't any pictures of foods on the new pyramid. It's not clear that the color bands stand for food groups, or that the width of those bands means something, or that the narrowing of each band is there to make a point about the difference between whole-grain bread and sugary doughnuts.
That's one reason Jordan, 12, preferred the old pyramid, which he called "more complete."
"It actually shows the foods that are in each group, if you know what I mean," he said.
Deja, 11, agreed, saying the old pyramid "is great for little kids who can't read yet."
Adam Asks About Sugar
Adam, 12, wishes the new pyramid was clearer about which group was which. He also wanted some more information about how much to eat.
"It does not tell me how much sugar," Adam said.
Speaking of sugar, Adam is one smart cookie. The amount of sugar someone eats can make a big difference in his or her health. Though the new pyramid doesn't give advice on sugar, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does have something to say about it. (The USDA is the group in charge of the pyramid and other nutrition stuff.)
About sugar, the USDA says that kids especially need to watch out for added sugars. Some foods, like fruit, contain natural sugars. But other foods, like candy, soda, and ice cream, usually contain a lot of added sugar. These sugary foods often don't have many nutrients — the vitamins and minerals your body needs to grow and keep working like it should. Sugar also contains a lot of calories, so eating too much can make someone overweight. It also can cause a lot of cavities — ouch!
As for how much sugar Adam can eat and still be healthy, that's hard to say. We recommend that he follow the pyramid by eating a good mix of fruits, vegetables, protein foods, dairy foods, and grains. Then, because he's eating so much good stuff, foods with a lot of added sugars will just naturally be a small part of his diet.
Don't Go It Alone
It's good for kids to know about the food guide pyramid, but no one expects them to figure it out on their own. So don't worry if you're a little confused. Lots of grown-ups have trouble understanding nutrition. It's a science after all!
If you have questions about your diet or wonder what's healthy and what's not, ask a parent. If your parent's not sure, talk with your doctor, the school nurse, or your health teacher. You also can turn to the new My Pyramid website. It's full of information and tips about eating healthy.
And give yourself a little time to get adjusted to the new pyramid. Some kids didn't have any specific criticisms of the new pyramid, they just seemed to be saying that they'd rather not see it change. In all, 43% of kids said they liked the old pyramid better. Anytime something changes, you might feel a little uneasy.
Charbonet, 12, put it this way: "(The old pyramid) made things more clearer. Nothing is as good as the original."
But Andrew, 12, welcomes the new pyramid, which, in his opinion, looks a lot better.
He said: "Change is good."
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: April 2005