The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s first stab at offering nutrition advice came in 1894, when W. O. Atwater, a chemist and pioneering nutrition investigator for the agency, published this warning in a Farmer’s Bulletin:
“Unless care is exercised in selecting food, a diet may result which is one-sided or badly balanced. … The evils of overeating may not be felt at once, but sooner or later they are sure to appear…”
Thus began the USDA’s long struggle to craft eating advice based on the latest scientific evidence. That science, of course, has evolved quite a bit since 1894 – a time when micronutrients like vitamins hadn’t even been discovered.
As the science changed, so did the USDA’s efforts to represent its best advice with visuals – sometimes, with amusing results to our modern eyes.
1943: The Basic 7