Monday, June 6, 2011

Nutritionists Blog About MyPlate

A more simple model for healthy eating 
MyPlate is barely a week old and the nutrition world is buzzing about it. If you are curious about what this new icon is and what it might might mean to you, read on.

I'm happy to share a link with you that is a collection of blog posts written by dietitians (myself included) on the new MyPlate. Much thanks goes the Janet Helm of Nutrition Unplugged for organizing this list. Enjoy reading the various comments on MyPlate from nutrition professionals and add to the discussion with your own comments if you feel so moved. We'd love to hear your voice!

MyPlate Blog Link

Keeping Your Food Focus in an Attention-Grabbing World

Isn't all yogurt probiotic? 
It seems that almost every month there is some new concept in nutrition that seeks to grab our attention. Many eating styles and food products are developed to help people adopt these "new" eating principles. Some examples of these are the Paleo Diet, Atkin's Diet, glycemic index, raw foods diet, gluten-free diet, juicing and super foods (this list goes on and on). There is a lot to grab our attention and the end result for many people is not better health and vitality, but a short stint following an unmanageable eating pattern, a little weight loss, and more weight gain down the road. All of this is for the privilege of spending a small fortune.

I'm not saying that diet and nutrition principles don't have merit. A gluten-free diet is vital for people with celiac disease and the rest of us could probably stand to consume less refined wheat products. Rather, I think we lose our focus on eating a healthy diet by being drawn into food fetishes that may not make any sense for us. As an example, I've heard many people claim that they won't eat carrots, grapes or watermelon because they contain sugar. To equal the amount of sugar in a 12-oz can of Coca Cola Classic you would need to eat 4 cups of watermelon, 10 large carrots, and 45 grapes. Some people might be able to eat this much, but I'm sure that they would be quite full and not able to eat much for a period thereafter which is not the case when you drink a can of Coke. Also, consider that natural foods such as carrots, grapes and watermelon contain nutrients that promote health.

I was recently asked my opinion about Joe the Juicer who has a website called Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. Joe found "religion" (health) through juicing and now is on a crusade to transform the world. There is some sensible nutrition advise promoted on Joe's website and it is this advise that is responsible for transforming lives. Juicing is the vehicle that is used to promote a more plant-based diet. If you can live on juice, then this is the diet regimen for you. If not, then you better pay attention to adopting healthy lifestyle habits that you can maintain, and forget the juice.

When adopting a healthy lifestyle, ask your self this question: Can I maintain this change over my lifetime? If the answer is no, figure out what you can do to be healthier and establish SMART goals for yourself. A SMART goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-lined. A SMART goal will lead you to the healthy lifestyle you are seeking, one goal at a time.

My kids often joke about being distracted by shiny objects. There is a lot of "nutritional glitter" out there vying to take your attention away from more sensible practices. Trust in your common sense and your ability to stay the course. It may not be as dramatic as juicing, buying amped up yogurt or getting your stomach stapled. But it is what works. Slow and steady wins the race, as long as you stay on the course.

Friday, June 3, 2011

MyPlate Introduced. Now What?

The endless junk food aisle 
Yesterday was a big day in the world of nutrition. The 20 year old Food Pyramid was retired by the USDA and the new MyPlate was unveiled. The new food guide shows a plate with four sections for the basic food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables and protein. To the side is a cup of dairy. The new food icon was introduced by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and First Lady Michelle Obama at a press conference yesterday morning. Vilsack commented that the personal health of the nation is as important to the wellbeing of the country as its fiscal and economic health. It is an issue of national security when many youth are too overweight and unfit to protect the country. Dr. Benjamin concurred that childhood obesity is one of the greatest challenges facing our nation. She stated that the goal of the new food icon is to provide clear and simple information based on science to guide the American people to make healthier food choices. First Lady Michelle Obama commented, "What is more simple than a plate?"

Michelle Obama goes on to say that there is still work to be done in leading our nation toward health. I can't agree more! I like the simplicity of the icon and the message to the American people to eat less that is a central tenet of the Dietary Guidelines. But I wonder if this new food guide will have any impact upon the way that Americans eat?

At the Future of Food Conference in Washington, DC last month, Secretary Vilsack commented that the way farm subsidies are appropriated will change with the new Farm Bill. He hopes to empower more small family operated farms which means decreasing (or ending) the subsidies paid to larger agribusinesses. To me, this is a more important step in changing the US food and health environments than the combined efforts of the new MyPlate, Dietary Guidelines and universal health insurance. The endless aisles of junk foods, cereals and beverages are directly related to subsidies paid to grow corn, wheat and soy which allowed the creation of cheap processed foods. Cheap processed foods are bad for health for many reasons, one of which is that they displace healthier foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains. When soft drinks and junk foods are more expensive and vegetables and fruits are less expensive, Americans will buy less junk. When we see smaller displays of junk foods at the grocery store, then we'll know that we are moving in the right direction.

Vilsack goes on to say at the MyPlate press conference yesterday that you have to walk the talk. He tells a story of how the new icon influenced him recently at a dinner where he was served a piece of steak that covered more than half his plate. He purposefully didn't eat it all. I hope Congress has the same good sense when it comes to passing a Farm Bill that will change the US food and health environments. Congress will have to turn a deaf ear to the wealthy and powerful food lobbies and do the right thing for the American people by voting to reduce subsidies to large agribusiness. Our national security depends upon it.