USDA Dinner PlateJune 1, 2011 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Tomorrow will mark the release of a new educational tool created by the U.S.D.A. that is intended to shape the way Americans eat. A “dinner plate” will be used to illustrate the recommended intake of various food groups instead of using the previous graphic – a “food pyramid”. The exact details of what will be served on the plate have yet to be made public. But clues provided by administration insiders highlight the expected guidelines that are to come.
The plate will supposedly be divided into four different colors and sections. One will represent fruits. Another vegetables. The remaining two will be reserved for grains and protein. Next to the plate is an accompanying, circular image which signifies the appropriateness of including low-fat milk or yogurt products.
The problem I have with the “new” guidelines is that they exemplify the pitfalls of policies created in a metaphoric bubble created by the establishment. Dissenting points of view are rarely heard at all or as loudly as they ought to be. I covered this issue in detail in a previous column entitled, “Food Pyramid Follies“. The major gaffe in the current guidelines is that they recommend essentially the same style of eating that has contributed to the present health crisis in the US and other industrialized countries. This makes no sense. Albert Einstein was famous for defining insanity as, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. This appears to be a case in point.
There are many ways of railing against a system with which you disagree. Speaking out against such concepts and policies is a good start. Finding areas of agreement while expressing your opposing views in a determined but respectful manner also helps. This is a strategy that I attempt to employ in my daily life. First and foremost, let me acknowledge the positive aspects of the dinner plate. Meals that are constructed around low-glycemic fruits and non-starchy vegetables are indeed health promoting. Over the past few years alone, a minimum of ten studies have found that diets rich in this variety of fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, overall mortality and a variety of cancers. Simply including more of these fruits and vegetables in the average diet would do most people a world of good. Thumbs up on this concept. (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10)
A protein source, which comprises approximately a quarter of a plate, is also a reasonable goal. Most diets do not advocate excessive or high protein intake. This includes the majority of low-carbohydrate diets. However, a moderate amount of protein coming from sources with high protein efficiency ratios generally discourages preventable disease and promotes healthier weight management in old and young alike. (11,12,13,14,15)
To my mind, grains ought not be recommended to the population at large. This is a food group that is extraordinarily prevalent in the modern food supply and may well be contributing to the health epidemics we’re currently contending with – namely, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. One of the best selling and most widely cultivated grains in the US and worldwide is wheat. Both refined and whole wheat contains a common food allergen known as gluten which has been implicated in a number of health conditions ranging from dermatitis to psychiatric disorders. Some evidence also suggests that certain genotypes may respond to grain in an unexpectedly detrimental manner with regard to cardiovascular disease. (16,17,18,19,20,21,22)
Dairy, whether full-fat, low-fat or skimmed, poses no negative influence in the diets of most people who tolerate it well. Recent studies conclude that menu plans rich in dairy tend to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Conflicting evidence also suggests that dairy consumption may assist with long term weight management. (23,24,25,26,27,28,29)
Eating Vegetables First Increases Total Vegetable Intake in Children
Source: Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May;91(5):1237-43. (a)
Since we’re dealing with a dinner plate as an illustrative model, I thought it might be useful to provide real world examples of typical plates of food that I eat and frequently recommend to others. Generally speaking, my idea of an optimal meal would differ from the U.S.D.A.’s version in two ways: 1) I would replace the grain portion with nuts, seeds or more non-starchy vegetables. 2) I would allow for slightly more protein and significantly higher quantities of healthy fats. A low fat diet, this is not. This simple shift promotes more stable blood sugar levels and insulin production, greater nutrient density and satiety. This manner of eating simultaneously addresses the major health threats that the government hopes to minimize. (30,31,32,33,34)
Breakfast: Greek Yogurt (unsweetened) topped with Organic Blueberries & Raspberries and Organic Raw Walnuts. To Drink: Organic Coffee (Decaffeinated or Regular) or Organic Green or White Tea.
Lunch: Wild Salmon Salad served with Organic Avocado, Cucumber and/or Jicama Slices. To Drink: Water w/ fresh lemon.
Dinner: Buffalo Burger(s) topped with Grilled (Organic) Mushrooms, Onions and Sliced Tomatoes. A side of Roasted Cauliflower or Grilled Shishito Peppers. To Drink: Organic Red Wine (Dealcoholized or Regular) or Sparkling Ginger Tea.
Snack: Sugar-Free Hot Cocoa; Nuts; or Olives and Raw Cheese.
If you and your family aren’t natural fruit and veggie lovers, rest assured that you can change your ways. Studies conducted on school children, the toughest food critics, indicate that continual exposure to fresh produce actually increases the likability of these foods. How fruits and vegetables are incorporated into meals and prepared makes a big difference as well. Valuable techniques along these lines can be discovered and implemented by adventurous parents and teachers. You can also hire consultants to teach you how to create wholesome meals that don’t taste like stereotypical health food. I do this all the time for clients of mine, family and friends. Making such an effort is certainly worthwhile, especially if you find ways to improve upon the conventional “wisdom” espoused in the 2011 U.S.D.A. guidelines. (35,36,37)
Tags: Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains
Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink, Nutrition