When the federal government replaced its outdated food pyramid with a colorful plate earlier this year, some nutrition experts cried foul. While most agreed that the plate’s streamlined design and emphasis on fruits and vegetables was a leap in the right direction, they worried that the US Department of Agriculture had allowed its close ties to dairy, potato, and cattle farmers to taint its new nutritional recommendations. Why else, they pointed out, would the USDA make recommendations like a serving of dairy at every meal, when scientific evidence suggests that high dairy intakes can be harmful?
Last week, the Harvard School of Public Health unveiled its own version of the healthy eating plate that weeds out any influence from food industries. It reflects the fact that whole grains are better than refined grains, despite what some farmers may say; that low-fat proteins are healthier than high-fat ones, despite what some cattle ranchers may say; that potatoes shouldn’t count as a serving of daily vegetables, despite what potato growers may say; and that water and tea are healthier than milk and sugary drinks, despite what dairy and soda producers may say. By fine-tuning some of the USDA’s guidelines - and adding a healthy dose of objective science to them - Harvard’s plate presents the information the government’s version should have in the first place.