by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Food-guide

Jan 23 2019

Canada’s new food guide: a better version of MyPlate?

Here’s Canada’s new food guide:

Doesn’t this look a lot like the USDA’s MyPlate?

Actually, the Canadian guide is better.  Even though it retains the annoying “Protein” section (we don’t eat protein; we eat foods containing protein and lots of other nutrients), it drops the dairy requirement.  Even better, it comes with mostly useful suggestions: [my comments]:

  • Be mindful of your eating habits
  • Cook more often
  • Enjoy your food [Yes!]
  • Eat meals with others
  • Use food labels
  • Limit foods high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat [alas, the usual switch from foods to nutrients when talking about eating less]
  • Be aware of food marketing [yes, but lots more on this please]

I can see why this has been greeted with some enthusiasm and less criticism than usual:

The documents

 

Mar 21 2018

Canada’s food guide: proposed revisions

Canada’s food guide has been around since 2007.

 

Bill Jeffery, the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Health Science and Law (which publishes the Food for Life Report) has produced an annotated version of the food guide with proposals for fixing its major problems.

Critics viewed it as far too industry-friendly.

Here’s a graphic summary of the proposed revisions.

This is a great opportunity for Canada to produce a food guide that really does promote health.

Fingers crossed.

Oct 9 2017

Belgium’s new food pyramid

Belgium has produced a new food guide “pyramid,” upside down.  Its advice:

  • Drink water
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, and grains
  • Eat less dairy and meat, particularly those high in fat
  • Eat a lot less junk food, sugary drinks, and alcohol

Nothing new here, really, except for making the advice so graphically clear.

As Quartz puts it, “the new food pyramid in Belgium sticks meat next to candy and pizza.”

USDA: take note.

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Mar 29 2016

Some food guides are unafraid of sustainability

I’ve just heard about the new Netherlands food guide.  It emphasizes sustainability.  According to an article in National Geographic’s The Plate,

The Netherlands Nutrition Centre says  it is recommending people eat just two servings of meat a week, setting an explicit limit on meat consumption for the first time [but see added comment below].

Here’s what the Netherlands food guide looks like.

Capture

Google translator calls this a pyramid, and explains: “Moreover, the Pyramid helps you eat more environmentally friendly broadly.”

Ours, of course, looks like this.  I’m guessing the USDA is working on a new food guide in response to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.  These do not mention sustainability at all—the S word.

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If you want to check out food guides m other countries, see FAO’s pages on food-based dietary guidelines.  You can search the site by regions and countries.  Fun!

Added comment: A reader from Amsterdam, who obviously speaks Dutch better than Google translator, and who also is well versed in the Dutch nutrition scene, writes:

Sustainability is indeed an important concern in the new Dutch food guide. However, the recommendation for meat is not ‘two servings per week’, but two servings of red meat and two servings of white meat (chicken), for a total of four per week. One serving is 100 gram or 3.5 oz. of meat. Diehards may add a third serving of red meat; 300 g of red meat (11 oz) plus 200 g of chicken (7 oz) per week is considered the absolute limit.

The fish advice has been reduced from twice to once a week because environmental concerns were thought to outweigh the small health benefit of a second weekly serving of fish.

Oct 18 2011

What is the Washington Legal Foundation?

The Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) placed an ad in yesterday’s New York Times.  

The Real Nutritional Guidelines

The ad continues:

Paternalistic plaintiffs’ lawyers, government officials, and professional activists are pecking away at consumers’ freedom of choice. They think we can’t manage our own lives, and through lawsuits, regulations, and taxes, they want to make our food choices for us—while profiting handsomely in the process. If we let these New Prohibitionists eat off our plates today, what other personal freedoms will they target tomorrow?

Help us defend consumer choice at EatingAwayOurFreedoms.org.

The website lists cigarette companies as clients:

The Washington Legal Foundation advocates for a free market economy, a common sense legal system, a transparent and accountable government, and a strong national defense. Our legal team shapes legal policy through aggressive litigation and advocacy at all levels of the judiciary and the policy-making arena.

Aggressive?  Clearly.

I’m not familiar with this group.  Could it possibly be connected to the Center for Consumer Freedom?

If you know anything about the WLF, do tell.

Addition, October 19: Thanks to readers for the enlightening comments.  One sent this document, in which WLF explains its mission.

If consumer protection were the real goal [of consumer advocates], then special interest ideologues would applaud businesses’ vigorous self-regulation of their advertising, and advocate viable, non-censorship solutions such as increased enforcement of underage drinking laws and more education on healthy food.

Instead of dumbing down America through activism, why not focus our efforts on real problems we face and produce drugs and vaccines to deal with pandemics, bioterrorism, and cancer. These are critical challenges that make the radical causes of self-anointed consumer advocates look petty and hopelessly irrelevant.

Reversing childhood obesity is a radical cause?  I’m for it!

Jun 17 2011

Baseball fans: a food plate just for you!

In case you missed it, here’s another contribution to food guides, this one from the Smack! sports section of the Chicago Tribune (June 5):

No comment needed.

Enjoy the weekend!

[Thanks to Yankees fans Sandy and John for sending]

Jun 9 2011

“A plate? For food? Americans don’t use plates.”

I know I said I was done with USDA’s MyPlate, but some of the later commentary is not to be missed.

Steven Colbert, for example, has an interesting take on it (that’s his quote):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so does the pseudonymous “Ruth Bourdain” (no, I have no idea who she or he might be, but I wish I did):

There.  That looks better.

 

 

Jun 5 2011

San Francisco Chronicle column: food plate, of course

My monthly (first Sunday) San Francisco Chronicle Food Matters column is on guess what?  This will be the last post on the new food icon for a while at least, I promise.

Food plate icon improvement of pyramid


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q: What’s the big deal over the government’s new food icon? A plate? That seems really boring.

A: The Department of Agriculture’s plate may look banal, but it is a key part of first lady Michelle Obama’s healthy eating campaign and I see it as a big step forward. Unlike the 2005 MyPyramid, this one is mostly about food, is easy to understand, and does not require use of a computer.

The plate does a better job of reflecting current thinking about healthy diets than previous guides. Its four sectors are unequal. Vegetables get the most space, and dairy – a discretionary choice – is off to the side.

You are to pile half your plate with fruit and vegetables, and a quarter with grains (half of them whole grains). All these come from plants.

I’m less happy about the sector marked “protein.” Protein is not a food. It is a nutrient.

USDA must think everyone knows that “protein” means beans, poultry and fish, as well as meat. But grains and dairy, each with its own sector, are also important protein sources. The meat industry wants you to equate protein with meat. It should be happy with this guide.

What I like best are the messages that come with the plate. My favorite? “Enjoy your food, but eat less.”

At last! Enjoyment is part of dietary advice. High marks to USDA for this one.

Other messages are designed to help you eat less while eating better. Smaller portions keep calories under control. Making half your plate fruits and vegetables is a profound switch from the six to 11 calorie-rich grain servings you were supposed to eat daily under the old MyPyramid.

For people who drink milk (really, you don’t have to), switching to low-fat is an effective way to save on calories, and whole grains are better for health than refined, rapidly absorbable starches that behave like sugars in the body.

So far, so good. But next come the politically charged “foods to reduce.” Here, the USDA is leaning in the right direction, but still pulling punches. USDA tells you to reduce sodium from soup, bread and frozen meals, but says nothing about salty snacks or other sodium-laden processed foods. This is a glaring omission.

And the final principle – “drink water instead of sugary drinks” – puts naturally sweet fruit juices (fine in small amounts) in the same category as sugar-added juice drinks, sports drinks and sodas, which ought to be reserved for occasional treats.

Let’s give USDA credit for going as far as it could without directly confronting the processed-food and soft-drink industries.

Optimist that I am, I think the icon has plenty for everyone to work with. It emphasizes the positives – fruits, vegetables, whole grains – and leaves lots of room for enjoyment. You can pile whatever foods you like on that plate as long as they fit within their assigned sectors.

Best of all, you do not have to count numbers of servings. If you want to control the size of your servings, just use a smaller plate.

Consider the alternatives. From 1958 until 1979, the USDA’s uncontroversial Four Food Groups advised eating two or three servings a day from dairy, meat, fruits and vegetables, and breads and cereals – half the plate from animal-source foods.

In 1979, in an effort to help reduce dietary risks for chronic diseases, USDA stacked the groups with plant foods above animal foods, eliciting a furor that led USDA nutritionists to begin a 12-year project to research a new food guide.

USDA released a food guide Pyramid in 1991, withdrew it under protest from meat producers, and re-released it a year later. Meat and dairy producers did not like being at the “eat less” top of the Pyramid. Nutritionists thought it promoted too many servings of high-calorie grains.

In 2005, the USDA replaced that Pyramid with the unobjectionable, food-free MyPyramid. This was impossible to teach (you had to know what each color stood for), eliminated any sense that it is better to eat some foods than others, and required a computer to personalize your own diet.

USDA officials say they spent about $2 million to research and test the new plate logo, create its website, and publicize it. This is a lot or a little depending on your perspective, but a plate is not exactly a new concept. The American Diabetes Association, American Institute for Cancer Research and Canadian government have all used similar plant-focused plates for years. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has one with a similar design but 100 percent vegetarian.

We can argue over nutritional details, but I think USDA’s plate-plus-messages works better than anything it has done before. The plate works for health and for disease prevention. It took courage to make half of it fruit and vegetables. That’s real progress.

Now the challenge is to Congress: How about fixing agricultural policies so they support these recommendations?

 

 

 

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