Why the food pyramid sucks

Content by: Guy Lawrence

180 Nutrition Food Pyramid

By Guy Lawrence

“…an 8 oz /230g serving of hamburger daily, is technically permitted under the pyramid.” – Harvard nutritionist Dr. Walter Willett

Have you ever had one of those moments… Someone asks you a question which seems to be really simple, yet you know if you answer it, it opens up for a 100 more questions?

After explaining to my friend about my feelings on why counting calories doesn’t work (you can read my thoughts on calorie counting here), I think he was having a little bit of a paradigm shift regarding his health, nutrition and weight loss. I had just created a monster and I knew more questions would come flying at me!

The penny had dropped and all was not as it seemed in the world of weight loss and marketing. He began to understand that nutrient dense food was of the upmost importance when it came to weight loss, not counting calories. He also began to realise that most of his daily diet consisted of food that was not nutrient dense. It was loaded with refined grains, white flour and starch like breads, pastas, rice etc.

So here came the next question… What about the food pyramid? He was actually eating in no greater quantity than what is recommended by the somewhat vague prescription advocated by the food pyramid. Yet he wasn’t losing weight.

This was my answer to why I thought the food pyramid sucked. Here’s why…


Grain Fed CowTongue in cheek my answer was this – Do you have any idea how hard it is to find quality grass fed beef these days?


Because farmers fatten their cattle up with grain and corn. They can do this in weeks. From my understanding, they struggle to do this when a cow eats what it’s supposed to (grass). I think it’s a safe bet that we can apply this theory with us humans too!

If you want a body shaped like a pyramid, I suggest you follow the conventional advice. 

In my opinion, you are better off turning it upside down for greater health and a better body shape.

Is the food pyramid healthy?

The food pyramid was first published back in 1974 in Sweden. The most widely known food pyramid was introduced by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) in 1992.

The first question I then ask is this: Would the US department of agriculture have a vested interest in promoting grains as your primary food source?

The dieticians and nutritionists that promote the food pyramid are the same ones that design hospital food and school lunch menus. I spent most of the beginning of this year visiting the hospital everyday and I was horrified with what the dieticians were feeding patients. It’s not my intention in any way to undermine the hospital staff, as they went above and beyond their duties to help look after someone I dearly loved. But I don’t agree with the system that promotes this kind of nutrition.

From what I can see, no human society in history has been eating a diet remotely resembling what I saw in the hospital, and the same goes with the schools for that matter.

Top of the food pyramid

Food Pyramid 180 NutritionIf you look at the top of the pyramid, you have a picture of a small amounts of fats, which instantly promotes a low fat diet. The fats are placed next to the sweets! Is this for real?

There’s not even a differentiation of the types of fats. It’s now common knowledge that certain fats are essential for optimum health and brain function. There’s a big difference between cold pressed coconut oil and a hydrogenated margarine spread! (I wrote a post on fats here).

I believe fats from a natural source can actually aid in weight loss, reduce heart disease risk, lower blood sugar, and even lower cholesterol!

Going against the grain

I asked my friend if he genuinely felt if he was eating healthy a daily? He said he felt it wasn’t too bad… a bit rough around the edges but all the same he said he was doing OK.

I then asked him what he ate yesterday and it was a typical diet that I see all too often. Muesli for breakfast (read here to find out why this is just a sugar fix). He rushed out the door and was in the car driving for most of the morning. He had the munchies mid-morning (his breakfast fed the appetite but not the body) and ate a muesli ‘health’ bar (this contains so much sugar he may as well have eaten a mars bar). It was then a late lunch which was a ham salad focaccia bread with no butter! That night when he got home exhausted he ate a prepacked vegetable lasagna.

I see this every day and I believe this is the very reason why his energy is low and he’s not shifting weight along with so many other people I see struggling. Not only that, I believe this will compromise his health over time as well. It’s a bit like carrying a pack on your back with somebody following you dropping little rocks in it from time to time. It’s too little to notice each one but you know somethings not quite right. Then bang! One day you’re weighed down on the floor, worn out and struggling to get up.

Yet he’s eating exactly what the food pyramid dictates as a healthy diet.

Turn that pyramid upside downTurn the food pyramid upside down for greater health

It is now stated over 70% of Australians are overweight with 30% being obese, and this now seems to be accepted as normal. Sadly people are eating the perceived healthy diet which largely consists of sugar, grains and processed foods.

I’m a big believer in doing the exact opposite to what most people do to get a different result.

I turned the food pyramid upside down but left the sweets and processed fats on the top. I’ve been doing this for many years and feel great! I try to eat natural fats and vegetables with most meals and moderate protein intake. I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. I don’t bother with calorie counting or worry about the amount of calories contained in natural fats. When I don’t stray from this eating I can see my abbs, the moment I increase my grains they dissapear. I exercise most days and feel great.

If I eat grains it’s on the odd occasion (like 1-3 x a week max) and it’s quinoa or spelt.

I’ve worked alongside many health professionals without an agenda who take this approach too. I’ve applied this way of eating to hundreds of clients who have all had the same results. Fat loss, increased energy and an overall enhanced wellbeing.

They have all cut out the starch, wheat, gluten, pasta, rice etc. If you want some health alternatives you can check out our recipes section here. With a little bit of preparation you’ll be amazed with what alternatives are available.

But don’t take my word for it, do some homework and read some books. Health is a personal journey, but if you are not happy with where you are at then change is needed. Change will only come from applying action.

So if you want to improve your health, feel great and lose unwanted body fat, do the opposite to what most people are doing and turn the food pyramid upside down! You’ll be amazed with the results.

Some homework for you & great reading

Sarah Wilson’s eBook: I Quit Sugar

Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet – Nora Gedgaudas

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Vintage)

Big Fat Lies

On a side note: I truly enjoy writing these posts, hence our frequent blog posts. At the end of the day though, these are just my thought’s and feelings around a topic I’m passionate about. I encourage everyone to do their own research and check out the facts for themselves.

If you did enjoy the post and got something from it or have something to share on the topic, I would love to hear your thought’s in the comments section below. If you feel others would benefit from this then it would be great if you could share it using one of the icons below (Facebook etc). Cheers, Guy…

fuel your body with powerful, natural and nourishing foods – click here –

Guy Lawrence

This article is brought to you by Guy Lawrence. Guy is a qualified fitness trainer with over 10 years of experience in the health industry. Guy worked at the UTS Fitness Centre in Sydney Australia where he specialised in exercise nutrition and obtained his Certificate in Exercise Nutrition and Certified... Read More

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13 Replies to “Why the food pyramid sucks”

Hey there Guy, I know I have said this before, but you are a breath of fresh air here in Australia, so exciting to see so many Aussies coming around and standing up for what they believe in rather than to trust “Conventional Wisdom”. I stumble across Mark Sisson many years ago and it changed my life, now with you leading the charge with 180 we are in safe hands.

Rob Charlwood

nicky v says:

So True Mr Charlwood… I am going to change my way of living.. and try this new upside down triangle… See if I can change My tiredness/weight problems…

Thanks for sharing this link on face book x

180nps says:

Thanks for the kind words Rob! I really enjoy writing these 🙂 Yeah I’m a big fan of Mark Sisson too… He’s an incredible guy & very inspiring!

Rachel says:

Great article Guy, keep them coming!

PS this now seems to be ‘accepted’ as normal. 🙂

180nps says:

Ha! Thanks Rachel.. I have a habit of doing that 🙂

Zoya says:

I love this! Thank you so much for sharing. I am currently finishing my nutrition degree and it surely is lovely reading something that I total agree with. I Thanks again.

180nps says:

Appreciate the comment Zoya! Glad you liked it!

Chris says:

Hi Guy

since end of November 2011 , I have dropped 14 kgs by not eating ANY rice, bread, pasta or junk snacks, to give you an idea I am 6’2″ and WAS 129kgs, now down the 14kgs and losing more, I eat 6 small meals a day, lean protein , take another brand shake ( which I am thinking of dropping ) my belt size has down 3 sizes in that time as well and by the way I go to the gym 3 to 4 times a week now.

my BMI WAS 32% now down 10 % ! is it a struggle some days ? yes ! do places like cafes etc cater to my style of eating ? absolutely not ! the most annoying is that people don’t like me eating different than them ( hot chips. chocolate, starchy fatty foods ) I frequently receive little barbs to eat the same, well meaning many , but misguided.

How do I feel ? brilliant !

180nps says:

That’s awesome Chris!

You will always get people trying to hold you back like that… Maybe you should join a CrossFit gym?? A fantastic environment where you get nothing but encouragement!

Keep up the great work!

It is really funny what dumb advice we just accepted and followed in the past. Imagine the world we would have today if everyone ate the right food and wasn’t sedentary…..
Had a look at some food pyramids in google images and yea it wasn’t encouraging.
Interested to know from Zora what they are currently teaching in nutrition degrees re food pyramid?

180nps says:

Hey Michael… Are you referring to Nora Gedgaudes? Her book Primal Body-Primal Mind does go into what she thinks the food pyramid should look like, & it’s very different to what it is currently!

janice says:

So fantastic to see a new pyramid with new logic attached. I was tired and emotional before changing to a primal lifestyle 6 months ago (2 young kids and not a lot of sleep). Now I have more energy than ever and feel fantastic!

Helen says:

Hi Guy. Just letting you know that I so enjoy reading your posts. Keep up the good work. I am in the process of improving my diet and exercising more (ironically, after a recent bowel blockage operation!!!!). Keep up the good work. As an ex teacher now retired I have come to the conclusion that learning how our body works ought to become part of the national core curriculum and ought to be introduced in our primary school years – obviously in a much more simplified and fun manner. Do you have any thoughts/views on how naturopaths can assist in our quest for a healthier lifestyle?

Comments are closed.