Was butter ever really a food group? As we look back at government endorsed nutrition groups, we notice that a lot has changed over the years. Many of us remember the “Basic 4” food groups of our youth, but did you know that during WWII the USDA introduced nutritional guidelines featuring seven food groups? That’s right, seven! Among the “basic” food groups of the 1940’s were your standard meat group, bread and cereals group and milk and dairy group. Fruits and vegetables were separated into a “green and yellow” vegetables group, “oranges, tomatoes and grapefruit” group, and “potatoes, other vegetables and fruits” group. The sixth and final group was butter and fortified margarine. Today we look at these groups and scoff at their supposed nutritional value, but the truth was, these guidelines were introduced by the government to help maintain nutrition during wartime food rations.
Since then we have had the “basic 4” food groups of vegetables and fruit, milk, meat and cereals and bread. In 1992 those food groups were translated into a food pyramid which was… complicated. The food pyramid first had layers like a cake, then eventually transitioned to slices or “slivers.” While the pyramid was incorporated to help the everyday person make healthy food choices, the slivers colors and steps made it so confusing you would have thought you had to be a nutritionist to make heads or tails of it.
In June 2011 the USDA replaced the pyramid once again – this time with the MyPlate guidelines. MyPlate is designed in a simple readable graphic depicting a place setting with a plate and a glass separated into five food groups. The simplicity of the MyPlate design allows adults as well as children to visualize what they are eating and make healthy choices based on that plate in front of them. MyPlate emphasizes making half your plate fruits and vegetables, make half your grains whole and vary your protein choices. MyPlate supporter First Lady Michelle Obama is quoted as saying, “Parents don't have the time to measure out exactly three ounces of chicken or to look up how much rice or broccoli is in a serving. ... But we do have time to take a look at our kids' plates.”
Kidspace Children’s Museum is proud to unveil our newest Discovery Program based on the MyPlate nutrition guidelines. "Choose MyPlate" is a program developed to help children learn the benefit of making healthy eating choices. Students investigate the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle in conjunction with high nutritional standards. Like every Kidspace Discovery Program, Choose MyPlate adheres to Content Standards for the State of California.
Butter and margarine are no longer part of our basic food groups, but with MyPlate guidelines kids may learn that there are healthier options besides getting their daily grain intake from corn chips.
Peter Lozano, Senior Museum Lead, has been with Kidspace Children’s Museum since 2007. As an Educator at Kidspace, Peter has facilitated Discovery Programs for hundreds of visiting students from various learning institutions across Southern California. Prior to Kidspace Peter worked with LAUSD “Youth Services” and “LA’s Best” programs.