USDA “My Plate” Assessed

The USDA My Plate is finally here. The government has come out with a new visual representation of the food pyramid called “My Plate” as its recommendation for a balanced, healthy diet and nutritional eating.

myplateHere it is broken down.

Balancing Calories
● Enjoy your food, but eat less.
Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase
● Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
● Make at least half your grains whole grains.
● Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Foods to Reduce
● Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals ― and choose the foods with lower numbers.
Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Unfortunately, even though the graphic is a little easier to understand, the message is no different than it has been over the last 40 years – with a small observation that fat is absent all together. Considering that the obesity rates have ballooned in alarming magnitudes since the inception of the food pyramid, I would hope that someone would figure out that the picture is not the problem. The problem is the definition of a healthy diet.

Well, actually just about everyone in the diet industry outside of the government HAS figured it out!

Considering that fruit sugars and grain starches convert within the body to the same thing – a long chain of carbons – they really are the same thing. Grains, fruits and vegetables all offer fiber. So it makes perfect sense to consolidate the three categories into two: sugars/starches and fiber. Proteins are an obvious staple, but so are fats.

Fats have been bastardized since the 1970s and many diet specialists believe that our fat-phobic ideas are at the root of obesity. I have to laugh a little at the pretense in recommending that everyone “Drink water instead of sugary drinks,” but the new picture places a glass of milk at the drink position on the plate. Kudos to the dairy lobby for a fantastic marketing campaign, but in truth, dairy IS NOT a food group.

Different people have great success with different diets. Some people do better on a low-fat diet and some are healthier on a low-sugar diet. But if we are establishing a good foundation diet for everyone, we have to start out with a solid definition of what constitutes “healthy balance.”

Back in the day, the recommendation for a balanced diet was to make sure you had a rainbow on your plate. It was simple to understand and managed to get folks to put more plant foods on their plates with lots of variety. Although it is still good advice, this recommendation, and USDA My Plate, only address part of a balanced diet and nutritional eating.