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Not Quite My Plate

20 J0000006UTC 2011

We each have a plate— the basic breakdown of the food you consume each day. This is made up of a spectrum of fats, protein and carbohydrates. For instance, vegetables, fruits and grains are all carbohydrates (because they are made up of sugars); so are Cocoa Puffs, Twinkies and Snickers Bars. Pecans, eggs and salmon all have both protein and fat; so do the “meat” part of a Chicken McYucky and Ball Park weiners. Olives and coconuts are full of fat, but so is the deep fryer at the pub down the street.

Recently unveiled (last Friday) was the USDA’s replacement for what used to be the “Food Pyramid”, then “My Pyramid.”“My Plate” is a little round icon divided in four neat, colorful, easy-to-read sections, with a little representation of a cup on the side. This is an advancement because of a reversion to simplicity. It resembles eating more than a triangle with pictures of food at the bottom and a little man climbing to the top does.

Let’s eat with our eyes open and understand where these diet recommendations charts come from: the United States Department of Agriculture– part of the government. If you are the idealistic type, you might think they are looking our for the well-being of U.S. residents. Having looked at our health status for a while now, I’m convinced that even if there are a few good intentions, ulterior motives run the show. America is in bad shape with poor health and rapidly degenerating diseases like Fatty Liver Disease, Cardiovascular Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Hypothyroidsim and Cancer. Paying attention to poorly planned pyramids– and perhaps plates– might be part of the problem.

Let’s break the plate down. 

What’s good about the new government-issue diet icon? First: half the plate is plants. I agree! If 50% of our intake was real, whole vegetables and fruits our overall health would improve. Second: the word “protein” is used instead of meat. This implies that eggs, beans and nuts can hold this slot. Third: in the list of principles on the website you can find one incredibly powerful point– especially if you are trying to fight obesity, lose weight, dodge diabetes, clean up your diet or improve overall health: “Drink water instead of sugary drinks.” Finally.

And why won’t I eat off it or serve it up to you? First: the blue cup should say “water” rather than “dairy.” Their guideline is “Switch to fat free or low fat (1%) milk.” Mine is, “Drink lots of water,” then, “Switch to occasional whole (4%), organic, grass-fed and preferably raw milk.” Dairy should not get its own category, as it is chiefly fat and protein.  Second: there is no pie slice for healthy fats or a distinction with unhealthy ones. Beneficial, essential fats from fish, avocados, olives, nuts, seeds and coconuts are vital to human diets, should not be feared and should be prioritized over damaged, hydrogenated fats in processed foods and oils. Third: there is still a pretty big chunk of grains, but few people know how to prepare whole grains or care to eat them. This segment of the chart might have to do with agricultural subsidy. Most of us do well on fewer grains and 80-90% should be from whole sources.

What does my non-government, non-subsidized, non-funded, info-to-the-masses plate look like? A plate unbiased by policies, money, big agriculture and big cows? It is flexible– based on body type, genetics, family history, ethnicity, current health conditions, taste and geared for optimal body function and nutrition, disease prevention, cell and tissue fortification, peak brain function, digestive strength and organ health. It would provide examples (avocado, blueberries, spinach, lentils, beef) and taste really, really good. You see, though? A smart plate requires mindful eating and looks different for each person, because we are all different.

After biking through the park today, through piles of picnicing people whose plates are clearly not half-plant, I hesitantly conclude the USDA is moving in the right direction. Even if we Americans could start by switching from sugary drinks to mostly water, we would do ourselves, our bodies and our country an amazing health and wealth service.

To you and your plate, chow.

For other takes on their Plate, look here:

Dr. Andrew Weil on the Huffington Post

Small Bites by Andy Bellatti

7 Comments leave one →
  1. kierstyn permalink
    20 J0000006UTC 2011 6:05 pm

    great plate kris! we are working on getting more veggies into the kids diets especially. any thoughts on getting the little ones to enjoy them other than repeated exposure?

    • 20 J0000006UTC 2011 6:11 pm

      Thanks for having a look. And more veggies, wherever and for everybody is the right idea! Let’s see, I know kids will eat more when they participate more and summer is perfect for that whether you have your own garden or can take a Saturday and visit one of our amazing Boulder County Farms. When kiddos meet farmers, see how stuff grows and take produce home from the real deal, they have a closer association and somehow it tastes better to them. Experience, I guess. Even a tiny garden box to grow 1 tomato or zucchini plant is a start. It takes more time to involve kids, but the long term benefit is worth it. The other idea is salads, all the time, with real oil and vinegar– not the store bought stuff– so they can really taste what they are eating– and their tastes will shift, just like ours do. When there is less over-sugary stuff in our systems and on our taste buds, then we can taste real food for what it is more clearly! Cheers!

  2. lisa sackville permalink
    20 J0000006UTC 2011 3:11 am

    Hey Kierstyn,

    The best success I’ve had with getting littlies to eat their veggies is to hide them. And the best way to hide them is to blend them! There are kids that would never let broccoli pass their lips, but they’ll drink it in a smoothie with berries and bananas. Kale too, if you can believe it, with grapes and pineapple! Oh yes, the deception continues with fresh pasta sauce loaded with vegetables, roast veggie dip for crackers, and mashed potatoes with pureed cauliflower and white beans hiding in there. Kids are none the wiser if they can’t taste them! Good luck!

    • 20 J0000006UTC 2011 3:16 am

      Lisa! Great plan for kiddos and adults alike. What the heck would we do without you?! I want you for MY personal chef…

  3. kierstyn permalink
    20 J0000007UTC 2011 5:45 pm

    Lisa, we have done the hiding thing for a while. We would like to get them to actually enjoy them and “choose” them as well! A tougher battle for sure. Kris, we are starting bi-weekly farmer’s market shopping and Elijah is excited about it so far. Both kids are great about eating fruit, black beans and green beans, but we are trying to branch out. Living in a townhome with very little sunlight on our patio makes it hard to grow our own. That and my black thumb! LOL. Thanks for all the tips ladies!

    • 20 J0000007UTC 2011 2:46 pm

      Kierstyn– Something I have noticed recently with veggies is caramelization…cooking them in such a way that the sugars come up to the surface. I have gotten more compliments on foods I have made where some ingredient was in this state…and why? Because it is sweet, and we sure like things sweet. One thing I did was saute an entire onion- or two because they shrink (very thinly sliced) in olive oil past soft, until browned and sweet. Then add other veggies or whatever else. The other is in the recipes tab, “Sweet Carrot Fries,” that start out as regular carrots (not a big fan) but end up as a part soft/part crispy caramelized carrot side that a kid would be crazy not to devour. The olive oil transports the flavor and grounds the dish, unlike when we steam veggies and they seem rather empty. Yum! I am trying beet chips next…

  4. 20 J0000007UTC 2011 2:59 pm

    another good idea kris! thanks! i will try that tonight actually….saute some onions and throw some stir-fry veggies in to go with our grilled chicken. i like the carrot fries too…..wondering if it could work with some other veggies as well!

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