Thursday, June 2, 2011

Striking out at the Plate

The pyramid is a thing of the past.

That's right -- the U.S. Department of Agriculture has shunned its nutrition pyramid in favor of a plate, which it unveiled today.

I wasn't expecting a vegan overhaul; although that would have been nice. But I still have questions about this new image, the biggest one being: How large is the plate?

Serving sizes play major roles in weight gain. I use a "lunch" plate for most of my meals at home. (I call it a "lunch" plate because that's the size plate I used for lunches growing up, one size down from a dinner plate.) But I would think that most Americans use dinner plates more often than "lunch" plates.

It's nice to see that half of the plate is devoted to fruits and vegetables, but that confuses me to. As a kid, I'd have a steak, a baked potato, and another veggie on my plate for dinner. I can't imagine eating fruit with that. Yuck.

And what about breakfast? True, I do have veggies for breakfast now. (I blend fresh spinach into a smoothie. Sounds gross, but it's delicious.) But the average meat-eater isn't going to eat veggies for breakfast. Except for hashbrowns, I suppose. But at that point in the processing, can they really be considered veggies? And that plate actually looks like a lot of food. That's gonna be one big breakfast.

Maybe I'm just not a visual person. I prefer numerical serving amounts to slices of a generic plate.

I had mixed feelings about the word "protein." At first I thought the meat groups would be annoyed that the word "meat" was omitted. But now I think "protein" just reinforces the myth that one can only get protein through animal flesh. And why is this the only nutrient mentioned? Where's my slice for Omega-3s? Or for fiber? And if I'm getting my protein through veggies, then what do I do with that other "protein" slice?

As for the "Dairy" piece, I'd like to flick it off the page. It's worse than worthless; like meat, it harms one's health.

If I were artistically inclined, I'd create my own nutrition plate containing of fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and soy milkshakes. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine came close with their own image. (Where are the milkshakes?)

I hate to be so cynical and complaining, but all in all, this new nutrition image is about what I'd expect from the USDA: confusing, vague, and harmful.

(MyPlate image courtesy of the USDA.)


veganelder said...

The new graphic is sorta what you would expect if you tried to support agribusinesses and give token recognition to reality too.

Rhea Parsons said...

It's simpler but it leaves people at a loss when it comes to definitions. What is protein? How is that different from vegetables or grains that do have protein? And why is dairy still it's own category of a required food group...oh, wait, maybe because the dairy association funds the Obama's organization to fight obesity.

mollyjade said...

I don't know, I like it. I think it's a huge improvement over that weird stripey pyramid. And several health organizations have been saying for years "fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with (whole) grains, and one quarter with protein". I think they can't say what size plate really because caloric needs vary so much from person to person.