Once again, we are being told how to change our diets. This time, I think we are closer to what we need to get to – but, I still think that some clarification and explanation is required.
Per the USDA: We are now to look at ‘healthy American’ diets (oxymoron, if I’ve read one), Mediterranean and vegetarian diets. I don’t disagree with this idea – after all, I want us to eat food that is more natural (aka – not from a box).
Here are the My Plate recommendations:
This was indeed a simpler way of looking at your ‘plate’ than the pyramid – but, the overabundance of grains and dairy show what many of us consider an undue influence of dairy and grain farmer lobbyists. Even then – when you look at how the plate is put together – it appears that we are getting away from the 6 – 11 servings of grains per day. ‘Score one for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’.
New Recommendations About Sugar:
- The new guidelines state that less than 10% of your daily calories should come from sugar (this is about 50 g. of sugar if you are on a 2000 Kcal per day diet). That means a little over one soda would take you to your limit.
- Based on what I am reading – this category is for junk food like soda and candy. I think it is admirable to limit this. ‘Score another one for the USDA’.
- But, they didn’t account for all the varying ways that a person can get sugar from their diet.
- For example, the guidelines now suggest 6 ounces of grains. Let’s assume that this is about 6 slices of bread. Whether it is whole grain or not – we are talking 9 g. of sugar.
- Now, let’s look at the new dairy recommendations. It is now 2 cups of dairy which is equal to 26 g. of sugar.
- What about the new guideline of 2.5 cups of fruit? This is a hard one as some fruits (like dried fruit, bananas and so on) have very high sugar content. Some fruits – like berries are lower in content – but, let’s assume about 8 – 10 g. per serving. Let’s assume 3 servings – we are now talking 24 – 30 g. of sugar.
- So, adding this all up:
You know – that’s not bad! And, I haven’t even included the carbohydrates from vegetables. This is certainly within the guidelines of ~ 100 -150 g. carbohydrates that I would advise people to eat. Again, score another one for the USDA.
But, the guidelines are not the issue!
The ‘My Plate’ strategy (introduced in 2011) didn’t do much to change American’s health or eating habits. With all due respect, we should have gotten healthier if we followed the My Plate recommendations – we haven’t. We still follow the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) – even though we know better. Does the pie chart below match the My Plate recommendations? Not even close.
What is the issue then?
We don’t have the mindset or discipline to eat healthy.
I see three major issues that stop us from eating healthy.
- Advertising and TV presence. Oh, we see the pictures of food that we so dearly love and our salivary glands start going into overdrive. But, it is just not advertising. I am an addict to cooking channels (there, I admit it). And, I get so hungry watching what the chefs make. Even when I know it isn’t good for me, I still quietly wish that I could have it. And, what often happens? We succumb to it. And, food scientists know how to ‘hook us’ into liking their product.
- The cost of healthy food. It really stinks that I could feed a family of 4 with a blue box of macaroni and cheese, some canned fruit cup and some sliced white bread for less than $5.00. Yet, feeding that same family a meal of lean protein, sautéed vegetables, a seasonal salad, and perhaps some quinoa costs closer to $10 to $15. No wonder why most people don’t follow guidelines. They don’t have the extra income to provide nourishing meals. It is hard to think of nourishment when all you want to do is get rid of hunger pangs.
- People really do hate vegetables! We always think that people will grow into liking vegetables when their taste buds mature. That isn’t always the case. Most adults will eat carrots, peas, potatoes, and corn. Why? They are sweet, and contain a lot of carbohydrates. Furthermore, we have not done much to adapt our taste buds to more bitter flavors.
So, we are making progress.
And, that’s good.
So, what do we need to do to further improve?
I have written at lengths on how to best put together a diet to last a lifetime. We need to really be aware of what we eat – where it comes from, seasonality, and how it was raised. Also, food should be enjoyed – not to be shoveled into your mouth while watching TV. So, here are some ideas:
- Switch from vegetable oils to oils such as coconut, avocado, and olive. They have more flavor and are healthier overall.
- Have a salad at each meal. I think that the recommendation of 2.5 cups of vegetables per day is low. Adding a salad to each meal can help increase your intake.
- Add more vegetables and more varied vegetables to each meal. May I suggest trying roast brussels sprouts, broccoli, mashed cauliflower, and cabbage? In season, they are very inexpensive.
- Stay seasonal. There is nothing worse than a tomato in January (even if you find heirloom varieties). They don’t taste good and they cost way too much for what you get.
- If you have a farmer’s market or food co-op, get yourself acquainted with the vendors and growers. First, it’s fun to talk to them as they are proud of what they have – but, you learn a bit about the growing environment and how the product comes to you. It’s also a lot of fun.
- Find easy and delicious recipes that you can keep in your repertoire. Certain methods of cooking can lend itself to so many different variations – all different and all, delicious. Cooking a meal should NOT be a difficult prospect.
At the end of the day, food should be fun –and elegant in its simplicity. We know what to do – let’s do it!