New ‘Food Pyramid’ Is Aimed at 2- to 6-Year-Olds

April 07, 1999 3 min read

New ‘Food Pyramid’ Is Aimed
At 2- to 6-Year-Olds:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a new “food pyramid” that is designed to be child-friendly and to promote better eating habits for young children.

While the USDA’s nutritional recommendations haven’t changed from the 1992 pyramid that urges children and adults to eat a low-fat diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables, the new graphic is intended to be more useful because it illustrates foods that children ages 2 to 6 typically eat, USDA officials said.

The revised pyramid, released late last month, shows grains at the base; vegetables and fruits on the next level; hamburgers, cheese, and ice cream on the next rung up; and candy, butter, and a soft-drink can on the top level. The graphic drew fire from the soft-drink industry, which says soda consumption by young children is negligible.

But Phil Shanholtzer, a USDA spokesman, said the graphic was meant to show that children need to eat less sugar overall. “Your mother always told you that you need to eat less sugar and more apples and bread, and this is meant to be a depiction of that,” he said. “Our message has always been there are no good or bad foods.”

While educators may find the bright new pyramid an attractive teaching tool, Margo Wootan, a scientist at the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer-advocacy group, said the redesigned pyramid isn’t very palatable. “It’s great USDA is encouraging kids to eat less soda, candy, and butter, but overall the pyramid reinforces kids’ worst eating habits,” Ms. Wootan said.

The illustration includes fatty foods like cheese, hamburgers, and ice cream, which “might lead some parents to mistakenly believe that kids don’t need to limit foods that cause clogged arteries,” she said.

Online Drug Prevention: ABC/Disney and America Online have each launched drug-abuse-prevention sites on the World Wide Web as a part of an anti-drug-abuse campaign by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

ABC/Disney has created Freevibe, a site aimed at children ages 10 to 13, which mixes interactive features and entertainment to deliver a drug-abuse-prevention message. Children can “get the skinny on drugs” or post their own thoughts about drug use online.

America Online’s Parent’s Drug Resource Center is designed as an online anti-drug site with a special focus on parents and adult caregivers of children ages 10 to 13.

The site aims to help adults identify children who are at risk of drug abuse or may already be using drugs. It provides information about how and where to seek help.

“Unlike advertising and traditional media outreach, the Internet transcends geographic and economic boundaries and allows new communities to come together in an interactive, substantive way,” Barry R. McCaffrey, the director of the White House drug-policy office, said in announcing the new sites late last month.

The office plans to spend $2 billion over the next five years on its anti-drug media campaign aimed at youths.

The ABC/Disney site is at, and the drug-resource center can be reached through America Online by using the keywords “drug help.”

Hearts at Risk: About 800 Massachusetts high school students are participating in a new study designed to identify youths with early risk factors for heart disease.

The study, organized by the Metro West Medical Center in Framingham, Mass., and Dr. William Castelli, includes 450 10th graders from Framingham High School and 450 high school students from the neighboring Natick, Mass., school district. Student volunteers are providing blood samples that will be analyzed for cholesterol levels, lipids, and genetic markers for heart disease.

“We expect to identify at least 5 percent of students as carriers of the gene for heart disease,” said Marcia Buckminster, the director of health services for the Framingham public schools. The parents of students identified as at-risk will be notified and will receive individual counseling, Ms. Buckminster said.

As a part of the study, students will be required to attend classes on cholesterol, diet, and exercise.

The study, which began late last month, may be done annually, with participants being monitored for at least two years, Ms. Buckminster said.

--Jessica Portner & Adrienne D. Coles

A version of this article appeared in the April 07, 1999 edition of Education Week as New ‘Food Pyramid’ Is Aimed at 2- to 6-Year-Olds