So Long, Food Pyramid!

CNN and NY Times report on the gubment’s new approach to goosing better eating: ditch the food pyramid and replace it with an easier-to-read icon based on a plate.  Under the surface, there’s some decent behavioral sciences being whipped out here:

  • Framing.  The pyramid had grains as the foundation; the plate conveys balance between various food groups.
  • Use of human scale.  As First Lady Michelle Obama noted, “When it comes to eating, what’s more useful than a plate?”  (Forks, sometimes, I suppose, but  you get the point.)
  • Decision easing.  The point made by the icon is simple and straightforward.  “The food pyramid is very complicated. It doesn’t give you as much info in a quick glance as the plate does,” noted Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

How could it be improved?  As Professor Brian Wansink has shown convincingly, much of the eating we do is mindless: we eat until our plates are clean (rather than until we’re satisifed), so we need to make our servings smaller.  We barely hesitate to eat what’s in front of us, but do when eating more means having to get up from the table, so we should strive to keep the fruits and veggies within easy reach, and the carbs and fats a few steps away.

But all things considered, this is probably a step in the right direction.

Farewell, Food Pyramid — eating pasta and bread was fun while it lasted.

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