By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
Get out your carrot sticks and broccoli bits, the latest missive fired from the USDA on healthy eating finally elevates fruits and vegetables to the standing many believe they deserve.
Even the normally skeptical Center for Science in the Public Interest was excited by the new clarity on healthy priorities being offered by the U.S. government.
“While no one graphic can communicate every nuance of healthy eating, this easy-to-understand illustration will help people remember what their own plate should look like,” CSPI enthused. “It likely will shock most people into recognizing that they need to eat a heck of a lot more vegetables and fruits. Most people are eating about a quarter of a plate of fruits or vegetables, not a half a plate as recommended.”
First Lady Michelle Obama helped launch the new government icon, released today, praising the pared down message.
“This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating and as a mom, I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country,” Michelle Obama said. “When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work, we’re already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew. So it’s tough to be a nutritionist, too. But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. As long as they’re half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden. That’s how easy it is.”
The new design doesn’t really change the basics promoted by the USDA’s ubiquitous Food Pyramid, but rather than talking about “servings” fruits, veggies and proteins as the pyramid did, it more clearly shows how the foods all stack up proportionally to each other.
In other words, if your steak is slung across three-quarters of the plate with dabs of zucchini dotting the remaining corners, you’ve got a problem. That’s not healthy eating.
Ditto for the milkshake or soda that casts a long shadow over that plate partially mounded with french fries.
You get the idea.
This graphic, simple, direct and even arty, as government graphics go, will be at the center of a new campaign by the USDA to help Americans wise up and develop better eating habits.
The “My Plate” image clearly shows that fruits and vegetables should occupy half of the real estate of any given plate or meal arrangement, a rule that would be hard to follow at almost any fast food drive-through or even at a quick-eats cafe, where the meat sandwich typically dwarfs the miniature side of berries and melon pieces, if there’s even a side of melon and berries in the offing.
For those who want to forge a new track, or stay on track with a healthy eating program, the USDA’s campaign keeps the written directions to the point as well, divving up ideas into these three categories:
? Enjoy your food, but eat less.
? Avoid oversized portions.
Foods to Increase
? Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
? Make at least half your grains whole grains.
? Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
Foods to Reduce
? Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals ? and choose the foods with lower numbers.
? Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
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