If you’re old enough to remember music CDs, bag phones and when frosted tips were cool, you likely remember the Food Pyramid. It was a well-intentioned attempt by the US Department of Agriculture to help us maintain healthier diets. Like many well-intentioned government initiatives, it received a lot of criticism. Much of the criticism was difficult to dispute. The Food Pyramid implied unlimited consumption of complex carbohydrates while avoiding all fats and oils was the best way to eat. It’s not.
Consuming too much of anything can have negative effects on our health. Even the most essential nutrient for us, water, can cause the potentially deadly condition of hyponatremia if we drink too much in too short of a time period. On the opposite side, avoiding entire food groups completely tends to contribute other health issues because we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Even foods we perceive as less healthy often contain essential micronutrients or beneficial phytochemicals. In the case of avoiding fats and oils completely, there’s also the matter of not all of them being created equal. Saturated fats like those found in fried foods, dairy products, baked goods and fatty cuts of meat should be moderated, but consuming more unsaturated fats in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, and fatty fish like salmon promotes better health.
In 2011, MyPlate was introduced by the Department of Agriculture as a replacement for the Food Pyramid. It still receives some criticism, but most experts agree it’s a great improvement. It may not be perfect, but it provides a simple visual representation of what generally constitutes a balanced meal. It’s easier to understand and utilize to eat for better health. Eating a variety of foods is the best way to ensure our bodies have everything they need to function well. MyPlate promotes this much better than the Food Pyramid did.
So, instead of avoiding “bad foods” next time you sit down for a meal, ask yourself if the food on your plate includes everything in roughly the proportions needed for a balanced diet to support healthy function.
I’m off to get my tips frosted and listen to a CD while my bag phone charges.
– Don Larkin