Dara Duff-Bergeron: Sweaty Mummy


Suck It, Food Pyramid

Out With the Old, In With The New!

Last week, big strides were made in the WAR ON OBESITY. Does that sound dramatic?  I'm trying to sound dramatic here.

The US federal government banished the old "pyramid" food guide in favour of a new plate graphic.  "My Plate" simplifies the food groups into a basic pie-diagram that one can literally picture at each meal to be sure portions and food groups are in alignment. 

The old food pyramid graphic has been in use in Canada and the US for a couple of decades.  It's been edited, streamlined, modified... but there were always some basic issues in my opinion, not the least of which was the overwhelming emphasis on starchy carbohydrates as the "foundation" of a proper eating plan, above even fruits and vegetables.  While I don't subscribe to any of the Atkins, Dukan or other carb-phobic diets, I do believe the average person (especially overweight person) consumes way too big a proportion of their calories from starchy carbohydrates.

I eat plenty of yogurt, fruit, vegetables, even occasional potatoes... but I probably eat bread/pasta/rice fewer than 5 times, total, of 21 or more meals per week.  I will admit that I don't have that bread lust that my female clients, friend and relatives complain of.  But I can go crazy over a baguette with butter, just like the average gal... I just don't bring it into the house. 

The new My Plate emphasizes vegetables and to a lesser degree, fruits.  Produce should make up half of your plate at each meal... in other words, in case you're missing the big picture:

Vegetables & fruits should make up half of your diet.  Grains? About a quarter only.

Another issue I have with the old food pyramid is the generalization of all "fats" into that scary "treat" area at the top of the pyramid.  There are plenty of healthy fats that should make up a proportion of approximately 15-25% of one's diet, depending on body type, goals and training regime. Under no circumstances should healthy, necessary fats like a handful of olives or some sliced avocado on a salad be categorized together with chocolate bars and cupcakes.  Those are two totally different animals.

The new My Plate contains no fat at all.  No fat?  Perhaps the assumption is that some of those vegetables, proteins and starches have been cooked in a bit of oil or might be drizzled with a bit of oil.  Not to include fats in the graphic is pretty large oversight, in my opinion.  I regularly consume fish, nuts and seeds, avocado (with a spoon, right out of the peel... yum!), full-fat yogurt and some other dairy, olive oil, grapeseed oil and even canola oil.  Plus, I like to have a good pizza or some other fun times about once per week.  Fat is fantastic on the tongue, crucial to the functioning of your central nervous system and the absorption of vitamins, and carries fantastic anti-inflammatory properties if you're selecting an omega-3 source such as olives, walnuts, avocados, coconut, etc.  Fat also helps fill you up and decreases the need for sugar and salt to improve a food's flavour. 

There is some controversy about the inclusion of dairy.  Lactose intolerance seems to be on the rise, and more people are choosing soy, almond, coconut and rice milk alternatives instead of relying on cow's milk, for ethical and environmental reasons.  In my house, we drink milk.  I enjoy alternatives but my family doesn't, so I buy good old fashioned 2% Canadian cow's milk.  Whether you support the modern dairy industry or not, I think the inclusion of dairy is still relevant.  Public health campaigns like My Plate are often targeted with parents in mind, since they control the health of the future generations, to a large extent.  Children need milk.  Especially young children.  I believe that's true. And unless we're going to go back to breastfeeding for the first 5-6 years of life, they're going to need to get that milk from somewhere.  So choose your "dairy": almond, rice, goat, soy, coconut or cow (or human?...), and include it in your family's daily diet to ensure adequate protein, calcium, vitamin and mineral consumption.

Overall, I think My Plate is a great step in the right direction.  I'll be watching for some similar changes to the Canada Food Guide.  In the meantime, I'll keep feeding my family and myself in a manner that does happen to roughly correspond to the My Plate graphic, although perhaps with slightly less emphasis on grains for Sweaty Hubby and myself, who are no longer growing (at least not in an upward manner...).

What do you think of My Plate?  How do you balance macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate) in your daily diet and your family's diet?