Saturday, June 4, 2011

USDA unveils its "My Plate" and tears down the pyramid

As part of Michelle Obama's strive to end obesity and help our nation get back on track with our diets and health, she partnered with the Department of Agriculture to create an alternative to the food pyramid, "My Plate." My plate is an easier way for Americans to understand what they should be eating at every meal with a plate clearly divided into the important food groups: fruits, grains, vegetables, protein, and dairy.
Image courtesy of DesMoinesRegsiter

As thankful that I am that Michelle Obama is trying to decrease the rates of obesity and other diet related health problems in the United States, I am afraid that this new graphic will not increase diet awareness any more than the convoluted pyramid did. Although this clearly shows the necessary food groups for each meal, it neglects the fact that protein, dairy, and grains are often interchangeable. Do you really need a grain that includes protein, dairy (which also has protein), and a meat or meat alternative? No. 

The My Plate also does not encourage a sustainable diet. Instead of just listing protein, which would have included dairy, the My Plate has a separate section for dairy. It also appears to be where a glass should go insisting that people drink milk, which is incredibly carbon intensive and typically comes from factory farms. The My Plate also does not give a clear understanding of what protein is, which will most likely lead many Americans to believe that the meat they eat with every meal is following the guidelines. 

Am I nitpicking? Perhaps, but I feel like this info-graphic, although better than the pyramid, will not change the basic problems with many American's diets, including too much meat and dairy with each meal. 

On a more positive and supportive note, the USDA released a few tips with the new graphic, which will hopefully make a positive impact on our waistlines:
- Enjoy your food, but eat less
- Avoid oversized portions
- Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables
- Switch to low-fat or fat-free milk
- Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals - and choose the foods with the lower numbers
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks

Want to make Your Plate more sustainable? Ditch the dairy and meat and instead choose whole grains and other foods that are excellent sources of protein (like quinoa, lentils, oatmeal, brown rice, some whole wheat pasta, beans, and many others). Eat locally grown food and stop eating processed foods (if it comes in a package, its most likely processed. Drink tap water instead of bottled water, juices, sodas, alcohol, or other beverages. 

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