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.)