Dr. Applebaum’s Food Totems tm


By Michael Applebaum, MD, JD, FCLM


I first tried to chip away at the Food Guide Pyramid about 4 years ago.  No luck.


Now the government itself is looking at replacing the Food Guide Pyramid.  The Feds must have finally gotten around to reading my writings.  They are welcome.


The Feds are hoping to find something to better motivate people to turn to healthful eating since two-thirds of us are overweight or obese and although 30 percent of Americans consider overeating the nation’s top health problem, just 12 percent admit to dieting.  The Pyramid has failed.


Agriculture Department officials have recently asked for ideas for a Pyramid replacement.  I propose Food Totems tm.  They appear later in this rant.


The current version of the Food Guide Pyramid appears below:


The Pyramid is a visual representation of the Dietary Guidelines which have been promulgated by the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”). These Guidelines have had five iterations since 1980.


The Guidelines are fairly interesting documents.


They, according to my reading, represent political documents as much as they represent nutritional guidelines.


The Mission and Vision Statements of the USDA are:


USDA Mission: Enhance the quality of life for the American people by supporting production of agriculture:

·         ensuring a safe, affordable, nutritious, and accessible food supply,

·         caring for agricultural, forest, and range lands,

·         supporting sound development of rural communities,

·         providing economic opportunities for farm and rural residents,

·         expanding global markets for agricultural and forest products and services and

·         working to reduce hunger in America and throughout the world.


USDA Vision: A healthy and productive Nation in harmony with the land.


They give the impression more of a trade organization than a consumer group.


The Department has to promote the US Agricultural Industry in its many forms while also serving the public.  The Guidelines are designed to address perceived and costly public health hazards such as the chronic conditions of “heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, stroke, and osteoporosis.”


In essence, the USDA performs a balancing act.  Business on the one hand, public health on the other.


You lose in the balance.  Business wins.  Overweight, obesity, diabetes, business profits, etc. are up.  Public health and fitness are down.


The pyramids are the creations of a dead and ancient civilization.  They are the Past.  It is the 21st century.  Your dietary guidelines should reflect the Present while looking towards the Future.  That is what the Food Totems tm do.


Dr. Applebaum’s Food Totems tm


Why totems? 


Totems and totem poles are defined as follows:



to·tem (plural to·tems) noun

1.     important tribal object: an object, animal, plant, or other natural phenomenon revered as a symbol of a tribe and often used in rituals among some tribal or other traditional groups of people

2.     carving: a carving or other representation of a totem

3.     symbolic thing: something regarded as a symbol, especially something treated with the kind of respect normally reserved for religious icons


to·tem pole noun

1.     carved pole: among some Native North American peoples, a tall wooden pole carved with totems that symbolize family and historical relationships

2.     hierarchy: a hierarchy, for example, in a company or organization


Encarta® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.


The Food Totems tm symbolize, in general, the hierarchy of foods you should eat for your best fitness and health.  There is a separate Food Totem tm for Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat.  To use the Food Totems tm , simply eat more from the foods at the top and less from the foods toward the bottom.


The Calorie Totem tm shows you how to distribute your calories per meal among the macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein and fat.


For example, in terms of calories:

  • most should come from high fiber carbohydrates, then
  • proteins from soy, aquatic sources and boneless, skinless chicken or turkey breasts, then
  • fats of non-animal origins


There is also a Cooking Method Totem tm to help you in deciding how to prepare your meals.


Following the Food Totems tm will keep fats and calories down, provide energy in proper proportions and supply you with all the macro- and micro-nutrients needed to get and stay fit.


Activity, i.e., exercise, is an important component of fitness, and, by extension, health.  Activity is recommended even though it is beyond the scope of the Food Totems tm.


Calorie Totem tm



Carbohydrate Totem tm



Protein Totem tm



Fat Totem tm



Cooking Method Totem tm