Sunday, June 05, 2011

The death of the Food Pyramid

RIP Food Pyramid... we've moved on to something hopefully better and for sure rounder.

Introducing, the new and improved, Food Plate.  This New York Times article has a great write up about the changes that the USDA has made to the historical Food Pyramid.  They have done away with the pyramid scheme (see what I did there?) all together and First Lady Obama has replaced it with the plate idea.

CBSNews has provided the following summary:
The new design incorporates seven key dietary messages:
- Enjoy your food, but eat less
- Avoid oversized portions
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks
- Make at least half your grains whole grains
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk
- Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals - and choose the foods with lower numbers.
Experts argued the now-defunct pyramid lumped all types of foods in its design - including unhealthy ones at the top of the pyramid . That made it hard to tell which foods were better choices.
Unfortunately, when I look at the plate, I don't get any of those messages!   The words above gave me more information than the graphic ever will and they do not coincide at all.  No wonder we can't eat well!  I get the point that they were trying to make (more visually friendly and hopefully easier to understand), but I'm not sure if it is going to work.  Clearly we can not continue to just toss pictures out at people, especially children, and expect them to understand.  Education, continuously, for children as early as possible about good food choices and why those choices should be made may be the best idea to get a healthy message across to all.  If you understand what is happening to the stuff you put in your body and what it does to your body, I think it makes a whole world of difference.  I'll stop here as I'm leaning towards some grandstanding and political mess....

Here is a great quote from the Fooducate Blog:

The USDA hopes that the new graphic, which reportedly has half of the plate dedicated to fruits and vegetables, can promote better food consumption habits.
But there is a bigger problem here. How can the USDA, a government body set up to promote agriculture and sales agricultural commodities be also charged with health recommendations? There is an inherent conflict of interest in helping farmers sell more corn, soy, and milk and at the same time helping people consume less food.
The government efforts are but a tiny drop in an ocean of savvy food marketing. Don’t hold your breath or expect the new campaign to instantly help America make better choices.

While I'm not overly impressed with the food plate, I did find some possibly useful tools on the USDA's website.  The interactive tools that are provided look like a start in the right direction.  I glanced at the food tracker and as soon as the link sent me to something that referenced the pyramid, I was disappointed and didn't look further.  Get it together folks.  Then I took a look at the Daily Food Plan.  I plugged in my numbers and besides that it instantly told me I was overweight (yes, I know.. got it.. let's try not to deter people right away, OK government!), the resulting guide, details and available print-out were actually pretty cool.

Oh, and here is one more blog post about this topic from Andy Bellatti's blog, Small Bites.  I've recently discovered Andy, who is almost a registered nutritionist and "considers himself one part vegan chef, one part nutritionist, and one part food policy activist."  His post and the comments are well worth the read.

[EDIT] While I have not read all the posts, Spoonfed: Raising kids to think about the food they eat appears to be a good website/blog to keep an eye on if you are interested in learning more about educating your children on smart food choices. [/EDIT]

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