Put ’em on the plate, Pop, put ’em on the plate

The USDA released a replacement for the much maligned food pyramid which, when last we saw it, showed a stick figure running up stairs to make a technicolor yawn. This icon was itself a replacement for a previous pyramid that was nearly as confusing, since people had a hard time telling which they were supposed to eat more of, grains or fats (hint: neither).

If you found the original and replacement pyramids equally confusing, so did everyone else.

So what did the USDA do? Reload!

At least now we’re headed in the correct direction, since the portions are shown somewhat to scale vs hierarchical. While I understand the decision against using a true pie graph—this is promoting healthier eating after all—I doubt everyone is going to purchase plates with these arbitrary divisions (although there are some preprinted ones already out there). So is this really going to make a difference in the average American’s diet?

So far, everything I have seen boils down to what this commenter on WSJ had to say:

Joe D wrote: The problem is not that the pyramid is too confusing (is our society really that unintelligent that we need to dumb down a picture of a pyramid?), it is that most people don’t care. A picture of a plate versus a pyramid is not going to get people to stop eating the crap from fast food restaurants. People today, for the same reason most don’t get enough exercise, look for the options with minimal effort. Eating healthy requires more work than swinging through the drive through on your way home or ordering delivery. If people don’t care about their body, then changing a diagram isn’t going to do anything about that.

Which brings me to a key point as it relates to branding: Too often people look to icons to motivate, when really they aren’t there to sell a product, service, or even a lifestyle—they’re just there to convey information. The only people who will be affected by this icon change are those who were already interested—nutritionists, therapists, trainers, and those who want to achieve/maintain a healthy diet—because it begins to address the previously confusing elements of the USDA’s campaign.


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