Good Bye Food Pyramid – Hello “My Plate”

This week’s column is an obituary. Last week we said our final good-byes to the Food Pyramid. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) announced new guidelines for a healthy diet. Those guidelines come with a brand new name – My Plate; and yep, it comes in the shape of a plate!!

The Food Pyramid turned out to be a total nonsense according to many health care professionals. My Plate is the better version of the same way of thinking. It reminds me of computer upgrading. You pay for it (I wonder how much money was dumped into this sophisticated project) and you receive something that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

Let’s have a closer look. The first good thing is the size – the plate is supposed to be smaller than the pyramid. There is a very smart (and very old) Tibetan proverb: half of what we eat keeps us alive and the other half keeps alive the doctor. When we look at the USDA’s guidelines, it states – eat less and avoid supersized portions. This is a bit enigmatic. I am not sure what supersized means. The first thing I’ve noticed coming to the US were humongous portions in restaurants. So to me an average sized portion of food in the US appears over sized. It is difficult to determine how much is too much anyways. The nutritional need of an individual depends on the basal metabolism, the level of activity, overall health, age and many other factors.

USDA guidelines give us directions on which foods to reduce or increase in our diet. Fruits and vegetables should make up half of the plate. I cannot agree with this more. Half of all grains eaten should be whole grains. In general that is a great idea. We just need to keep in mind that the amount of grains eaten generally exceeds our actual need by two-three times. The grain part on the picture can easily be smaller. Another recommendation is to switch from whole to low-fat milk. This is a very controversial topic, which requires more detailed attention in another article. But in short, cow milk is not the best choice of dairy anymore. An increasing amount of people has lactose intolerance. Milk lowers the acidity in the stomach, which is necessary to digest proteins and absorb calcium and iron. So it is important to have some, but use it sparingly.

The USDA recommends lowering the intake of sodium by comparing sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals ― and then choosing the foods with lower amounts of sodium. Products mentioned in the guidelines are perfect examples of what we should avoid to eat, period. It is a shame that the authors did not recommend to avoid or reduce eating processed foods. We are also advised to drink water instead of “sugary” drinks. The “sugary” suggests that diet drinks are OK. But everybody knows, that diet drinks are just as unhealthy as regular sodas. Sugary or not, sodas are not recommended by any dietitian, because they have zero nutritional value.

I am happy to say farewell to the Food Pyramid, but I am not enthusiastic about My Plate. To get good food recommendations that are in accordance with your life style and body, visit us at our office in Denver. Please call for an appointment # 303 803 0675.

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