I actually expected to see it happen last year. With Michelle Obama’s focus on childhood obesity, I knew it we were in for a revision. Online the USDA claimed a planned update in 2010. Then I got word from a wonderful blog, The Table of Promise, the new American eating plan had been unveiled.
Where do I begin? Suffice it to say that over a year ago I drafted a post containing a rambling rant about my disgust with the pyramid. Honestly, can you even imagine eating 11 servings of grains and then topping it off with those things sparingly used like candy, chips and cookies? Trust me, this is coming from someone who can polish off a box of saltines faster than the entire waiting room at an OB’s office.
It’s just not normal and it shouldn’t be recommended. Plus, the pyramid combined all food for a day as opposed to focusing on meals and snacks. It gave us reason to overeat. I can imagine my husband prowling in the freezer late at night, “but I need three servings of ice cream in order to meet my daily dietary requirements.”
The book that I’m currently reading, Switch, references the pyramid as a terrible example of how to create change. The visual of placing fats and oils at the top, causes them to be viewed as the pinnacle of foods in a hierarchy. It works for me since I do love butter but it’s not a hierarchy. Chip and Dan Heath share that in order to create change we must remove ambiguity and the pyramid didn’t do that.
Enter ChooseMyPlate. Christa has done an excellent job of pointing out some of the good things about this. It’s focused on a single meal. Dairy is moved to the side. 3/4 of the plate is made up of fruits, vegetables and grains. And I really like the first two bullet points under it; eat less and avoid oversized portions. In fact, in Switch, the Heath brothers point out that simply by changing the size of our plates, we’re likely to eat less. They’ve got a wonderfully documented study about individuals with big popcorn buckets to prove it.
- 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.
Back in December, when we took the food stamp challenge, I outlined that better education is one element in creating a culture of nutrition on a budget. I think ChooseMyPlate is a good start. It gives some specific guidance or “scripts the path” that we need to take in order to become more healthy. But the second step is bigger. We need to devise a way to tell people what fits in each of those colorful categories. Remember the first graders that we’re yelling, “Pear!” when Jamie Oliver was holding up an onion?
What’s on your plate and how does it fit into the new requirements?
- 1 cup black beans cooked
- 1 cup of amaranth cooked (can use quinoa, barley, brown rice, or another favorite grain)
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1/4 onion, finely chopped
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1 bunch spinach or other favorite greens, leaves coarsely chopped
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground pepper
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil. Add garlic and chopped onion and cook for a few minutes until soft but not brown. Add the chopped greens and cook, stirring frequently until wilted. Add crushed red pepper. Stir in black beans and rice. Season with cumin and heat through. If too dry at this point add a bit of water or vegetable stock. Salt and pepper to taste. If desired, you can add a bit of grated cheese for your dairy side. Serve with sliced oranges.