Food Guide Fight

In 2005, the USDA laid to rest the Food Guide Pyramid famously found on the backs of cereal boxes. With breads, grains, and pasta on the big bottom layer, the 1993 Food Guide Pyramid was a favorite of cereal and bread makers everywhere.

“See, that’s us! We’re the base of a good diet,” they said-trying to reclaim ground lost in the low-carb craze of the late 90s and early 2000s.

Food Guide PyramidThen the government decided to update the Pyramid–introducing the snazzy (and, in my humble opinion, less intuitive) MyPyramid.

It took a while for the Food Guide Pyramid to disappear, but it’s been a while since I’d last seen it–until this last month, when I was making my way through the B children’s picture books at my library and ran across Rex Barron’s Showdown at the Food Pyramid.

Now, I’m a dietitian–and I’m pretty sold on the Food Guide Pyramid. While it had some faults, it was a good educational tool. It did a good job of showing the approximate proportions of different food groups that make up a healthy diet. It was easily understandable and quite intuitive. It was a good tool.

So maybe you’d think I’d be excited about a children’s picture book that uses the Food Pyramid to teach kids about nutrition.

And maybe I might be–but I’m less than excited about this book.

Showdown at the Food Pyramid tells of the happy pyramid that lived in peace until some new foods–Hot Dog, Candy Bar, and Donut–came along and upset the peaceful world. Soon there was an all-out war between the junk food (led by King Candy Bar) on the top floor of the Pyramid, and the Fruits and Vegetables on the second floor.

The two groups duked it out until at last the poor fruits and veggies collapsed under the weight of the evil junk food.

The collapsed food items decide to rebuild the pyramid, only this time they’re going to do it right–according to the Food Guide Pyramid.


Nice story.

Or not.

Apart from being ridiculously pedantic, this story makes the error of fostering an unhealthy attitude towards food.

By framing the pyramid as a fight between good foods and bad foods, this book fosters the idea that food is a moral issue.

It isn’t.

Let me repeat that.

Food is NOT a moral issue.

There is no such thing as “good” food and “bad” food.

Does that mean that mean that we should be unrestrained in our eating? Of course not. But we should be cautious against calling unclean what God has made pure.

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

~Acts 10:9-16, NIV

Vegetables are not godly while chocolate is sinful.

That idea is not only false, it’s dangerous.

It keeps people from enjoying food, it encourages them to binging and purging, it promotes false guilt over food.

Choose NOT to teach your children this book’s message. Choose instead to teach them that food (all food) is a gift from God and that we should strive to use it (as everything) to glorify Him.

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
~I Corinthians 10:31

Reading My LibraryFor more comments on children’s books, see the rest of my Reading My Library posts or check out Carrie’s blog Reading My Library, which chronicles her and her children’s trip through the children’s section of their local library.