For starters, it could be argued that the high-carb emphasis has done far more harm than good for our wellness as a nation. Not only did the pyramid recommend up to 11 daily servings of carbs, but it also failed to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy versions. This meant that you could have followed this national guide in clear conscience by filling up regularly on Wonder bread and Fruit Loops. And guess what? That’s just what many Americans did─which may help explain the extraordinary rise in both obesity and diabetes in recent years.
The new “My Plate” model has received a far more favorable reaction, for several reasons. It has a simple, easily interpreted design and it clearly emphasizes the tremendous importance of fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet. Is it perfect? No. For one thing, the “My Plate” icon fails to present a strong enough message about avoiding refined, processed foods.
It should also be noted that the U.S.D.A. “My Plate” website recommends consumers to make “at least half your grains whole grains” rather than all of them. This is inexcusable in the minds of many health experts, who feel that carbohydrates─rather than fats─are the main source of our modern epidemic of chronic health problems like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
However, this new development is progress. The fact that half the plate is comprised of fruits/veggies is a major nutritional coup, especially since most Americans currently eat a mere fraction of that at each meal, according to Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director for the Centers for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Another plus is that fats and sweets are no longer represented, as they were on the old pyramid─especially since there was no guidance on healthy and unhealthy choices.
So, what’s the clever take away? It may be simply recognizing that no matter how these categories are divided, the quality of what you select is the key. If it’s half a plate of fruits/veggies, make them fresh, whole, unprocessed, low glycemic choices. As for protein, make it lean, with whey protein shakes, egg whites, turkey, chicken, and seafood taking center stage.
When it comes to grains, less may be more. If you like them, stick to brown/wild rice, steel cut oats, sprouted grain breads, etc. You may even choose to use dietary starches as a condiment rather than a food group, as these are trigger foods as well as potential allergens for many people.
Stay tuned for more nutritional insights. Meanwhile, best wishes for healthy, energizing eating!