Any enthusiastic assessment by grain-based foods of the new MyPlate government symbol for healthy eating should be tempered by the recollection that the Food Guide Pyramid was greeted in 1992 as an unbridled triumph for the industry.

With grains holding the large base position, the industry felt confident of prospects for bread and other grain-based foods. But after rising steadily through 1997, per capita consumption of flour has declined in 9 of the last 12 years.

In hindsight, the Pyramid approach to guiding the public’s eating certainly was flawed, as evident by the failure of the public to follow the government’s eating recommendations and the worsening trends in obesity rates. It is hoped by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that because the new icon is less abstract, it will be a more effective guide. After all, people don’t consume pyramids of food.

Grains appear to enjoy a specific plus with the new icon. While fruits and vegetables may take up a larger portion of the plate than grains, it is grains that hold the largest share among major sources of macronutrients in the diet. Increased intake of vegetables (and to a lesser extent fruit) poses no competitive threat to grains when it comes to protecting or building caloric share in the American diet.

It may be hoped that the large position afforded to grains will help combat in coming years advocates of carbohydrate avoidance and rebuild the primacy of grain-based foods as the foundation of healthful eating.