Tuesday, June 07, 2011

MyPlate - America's new, irrelevant "food icon"


A great many folks have been asking me to weigh in on the new American "food icon" My Plate that was launched last week.

First the good.

It's dead simple.

It's worlds better than the confusing pyramid it's replacing. It can theoretically actually help guide what a person might put on their plate without requiring them to wade through pages of reading (like Canada's Food Guide does).

Its simplicity is certainly its greatest strength.

Nutritionally though, it does fall down some, and while I could get into nitty gritty, I've only got three to really harp on starting with the full plate itself.

While it may sound ridiculous, I don't think that encouraging a full plate's a great plan. The fact is, we've got big plates, and while the accompanying website does provide caloric guidance, all the MyPlate icon does is suggest your plate should be full.

The second is that like our Food Guide, it doesn't provide much guidance as to the quality of different types of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Lastly, I don't think milk/dairy deserves it's own billing as dairy's just a protein source with calcium, and not a magic fairy food that confers the health of immortal unicorns.

But really, it's the broader picture stuff that really matters, as this food icon does nothing to actually address the underlying problems we've got nutritionally in society. It's for that reason why even if it manages to affect plate level changes, America will remain massively messed up nutritionally (not that we're any better).

For instance:

It doesn't address crop subsidies that make highly processed food incredibly cheap to produce and purchase.

It doesn't address the fact that on an annual basis the amount of food dollars we spend outside the home are growing.

It doesn't address the fact that home cooking is a dying art and that the food industry has hoodwinked many of us to believe that opening a few boxes and mixing things together actually counts as cooking.

It doesn't address the fact that we serve our children nutritional garbage in schools.

It doesn't address the nutritionism that among other ridiculousnesses, has folks championing chocolate milk as a means for kids to get calcium.

It doesn't address the front-of-package health claims that help to sell foods by means of their health haloing effects.

It doesn't address predatory targeting of children by Big Food manufacturers.

But of course, how could it?

Ultimately our respective Food Guides and Plates? They can't change the world they're being brought into, and until there's a concerted effort brought to bear to change our world, we aren't likely to see much in the way of useful dietary change.

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10 comments:

  1. This may have been the best sentence to start my morning:

    "I don't think milk/dairy deserves it's own billing as dairy's just a protein source with calcium, and not a magic fairy food that confers the health of immortal unicorns."

    Hilarious, and agreed. LOL!

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  2. Bravo Yoni and Steph. So many parents figure that they can feed their kids garbage because the magical milk will fill in all their nutritional deficiencies. I am anti-dairy, but that aside, kids should not be fed chicken nuggets and kraft dinner but supplemented with this "magic fairy food" to cover all bases. Just eat real food.

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  3. The new MyPlate is really just a product of extensive lobbying by the corn and dairy industries. I don't have a lot of faith in US food agencies (I am an American), but I'd love to see what the USDA would recommend if politics weren't involved. Or what the FDA would ban if big pharma didn't have a say.

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  4. Definitely a sad fact that an astounding percentage are directed to children and they are marketed targets. Living a healthy lifestyle should be practiced at home to make children prefer mom's home cooked meals over what mc donald's offer.

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  5. I like that we moved toward a plate icon; however, I still think many Amerians are going to mess this up! I demonstrated 10 ways this model could make you FAT in my blog post today – http://www.bitchinnutrition.com. Try to identify them for a chance to win a FREE Starbucks gift card!

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  6. Anonymous12:07 pm

    I use the "stove" food guide - 4 burners:

    1 red veg, 1 green veg, 1 eggs/meat/fish/poultry, 1 starch

    sometimes it's all in one pot, sometimes in a salad bowl

    easy

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  7. I agree with everything you said, and then some.I'm waiting for people to speak the truth about this icon. It's a joke. It looks like the kitchen plate that little kids play with. They know to put the meat, potatoes, peas, roll on the plate, etc. But, who is feeding them and how in the real world does this translate. All that time, effort, money and this is what we get! And, I hate to say this, but in five year, the people will be even fatter!

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  8. Nonesuch6:59 pm

    "It doesn't address the nutritionism that among other ridiculousnesses, has folks championing chocolate milk as a means for kids to get calcium."

    Or ranch dressing as a vehicle to feed kids vegetables. This idea that "Kids won't eat it unless it's hidden in something tasty!" is malarkey. Kids will eat it if you don't give them junk food as an alternative; if you serve a healthy dinner and they won't eat it so you cave and buy them a Happy Meal, you're just reinforcing bad nutrition.

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  9. When in American schools, tater tots are considered a vegetable and fruit punch soda is considered a fruit, i think the plate is ridiculous. It gives the impression the plate should be full of food.

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  10. Love your comment about not encouraging a full plate. Everyone else missed that. To add more flames to the fire, check this out: http://dropitandeat.blogspot.com/2011/06/time-to-clear-my-plate-before-you-get.html

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