Friday, June 3, 2011

The new food "plate"-- not perfect, but much better!

First of all, I would just like to say a big thank you to Jenn at Girl Heroes, who featured me on her blog this week. I am honored and delighted to be part of her girl hero series!

As for the new food "plate" model:

The good: it is much, much simpler than the food pyramid, which was nearly impossible to understand and was far too heavy on grains. This one takes grains back to a more modest 25% of the plate, leaving 50% of the plate for fruits and vegetables, which is a significant improvement. Also, using a plate is a lot easier to visualize then a pyramid-- Great Britain has used a version of the plate for many years, which I always thought made more sense than the pyramid. I was taught to educate people via the "healthy plate model" which looks very much like this, and I would often draw it for patients during their appointments. It is visually very easy to grasp.

The bad: in trying to make it simple, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions (as my friend asked me when I posted this on facebook-- where's the pie group?) There is no category that discusses sugar or fat, types of fat etc (which is just as well since the current recommendations are backwards anyway). Dairy alternatives aren't suggested, and most of all-- it implies that the only thing that counts as starch is grain, which means conceivably you could have beans, a potato, a cup of white rice, lettuce and a banana, and it would all fit on the "plate", but you would have a huge dose of refined carbohydrates and almost no fat or protein.

What I would change: grains should be changed to "starch" (so grain, or starchy vegetables would fit there) and I'd make that square a little smaller, or even optional. I would change the fruit/vegetable parts to just saying fruit AND vegetables, with an emphasis on green veggies. If you are getting lots of non-starchy veggies, fruit is not as important. And of course, no adult needs dairy-- some people do okay with it, many people don't-- it does not need to be a staple of the food recommendations.

I've seen a lot of paleo people bashing this as being no different then the food pyramid, ("just the food pyramid in a circle!") but I do think it's a step in the right direction. Given the amount of conflicting information in the main-stream and the difficulty in explaining nutrition simply to the general public, this is a great stride in helping people understand what foods are appropriate in what amounts.

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