Yes, Choose My Food Plate!
The Food Plate is in, and the Food Pyramid is history. The healthy diet is simpler now, is better, and comes with a host of interactive tools that aim to suggest a diet that will work for you. But there are a few issues I have with these tools. If you’re muscular, you won’t get the correct advice. And what’s with the milk!?
THE USDA released today their new food plate that replaces the old food pyramid. As I wrote in The New Food Pyramid is a Plate, the Obama administration, in part lead by Michelle Obama, has been studying how to remake the food pyramid so that information about diet is more relevant, useful and true.
This is the job of the new “Plate” which is divided into four sections – fruits, grains, proteins and vegetables, with a side of diary. The statements alongside the Plate at ChooseMyPlate.gov are these:
● Enjoy your food, but eat less.
● Avoid over-sized 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.
Gone are any references to sugars, fats or oils, and what was once a category called “meat and beans” is now simply “proteins.” Next to the plate is a blue circle for dairy, which could be a glass of milk or a food such as cheese or yogurt.
Doesn’t seem like rocket science, does it? But there’s a few things that are new and good to know, such as specifying that the grains you eat are “whole” grains, not the decimated white variety that constitutes the typical bread, bagel, pasta and pizza. Or that half the Plate should be fruits and veggies, not white grains.
There’s more, much more at the site that might be useful to people not well versed in what constitutes healthy diets, such as information for specific audiences (pregnant women, preschoolers, kids, weight loss), information for professionals, multimedia presentations, and interactive tools.
I jumped into Interactive Tools.
Here’s what’s presented in Interactive Tools:
Daily Food Plan – Get a personalized plan just for you. Quick access to food info – food groups, calories & comparisons.
Daily Food Plans for Preschoolers – Get your child’s Plan today.
Food Tracker – Feedback on your food and physical activity.
Daily Food Plans for Moms – Start out right as a new mom or mom-to-be.
Food Planner – Plan what to eat to help reach your personal goals.
I decided to try the Daily Food Plan. I entered my stats, age, gender, weight, amount of daily physical activity and came up with this warning:
“The weight you entered is above the healthy range for your height. This may increase your risk for health problems. Some people who are overweight should consider weight loss. Click here (new window) for more information about health risks and whether you should try to lose weight, or talk with your health care provider.”
This is the long-winded version of what I usually get when using the BMI calculation, which truncates the above message into something like, “You’re Overweight”.
That’s because neither of these systems accounts for muscle mass. Muscle weighs about 40% more than fat and if you have more than the average bear, the extra pounds associated with the muscle is measured as fat.
I’m not being delusional. At 6’4”, I have a 36” waist and 46” chest – not the data sample for someone who needs to “talk with your health provider.” But according to the BMI calculation and that used to determine the Daily Food Plan, 215 pounds is too heavy for me.
My next pet peeve is this American love affair with milk. People, the milk referred to here is made by cows. Cows make the milk for calves, not people. OK, maybe 1% or 2% milk will help you avoid growing the three pounds a day that a calf does, but why is it so valuable to one’s diet that it’s included in the new Food Plate? Is it simply a matter of the diary lobby?
Diets for Kids
For some reason, the individually created diet plans for kids still uses the now jettisoned pyramid symbol. I inputted data for my niece, Isa, when she was five years old for the pre-schooler diet plan.
Note that at the bottom of the pyramid are the amounts by weight of each of the new Plate food categories that are thought to be correct for Isa. (Again, just don’t get the milk thing.) What you can’t read is that statement at the bottom, which says:
“This Plan is a 1600 calorie food pattern. It is based on average needs for a 5 year old girl who is active more than 60 minutes a day. Your preschooler’s food needs also depend on how fast she is growing and other factors. Your child’s doctor can track her height and weight over time to identify specific needs. A preschooler should not be urged to eat these exact amounts — their needs may differ from the average.”
My 2 Cents
Overall, I’m pleased with the new Plate given the supporting material at ChooseMyPlate, the government site from which I’ve been getting the above information. If people are willing to be guided by it, this country may divert the mounting health catastrophe that lies before us. (If you think I exaggerate, read my five-part series on obesity staring with, The Seriously Serious Problems of Obesity.)
My two nits have already been mentioned:
- The tool for determining if you’re overweight and thus what your diet should be does not take into account those who are muscular; and
- Milk is not some panacea food… some people do not well digest milk sugars, and there are many healthy alternatives, such as almond milk, hemp milk (if you’re the milky type) or simply water.
Do let your friends know about the The New Food Plate, particularly those who could use a nudge in a healthy direction, and most certainly for those who have overweight children who make the rules about what gets bought at the grocery store.
Lastly, what comes to your mind about this new “Food Plate”? Tell us in the Comments section below.
P.S. For more on diet, particularly my diet, check out these two posts, and decide if you rather “choose my food plate”.