Thursday, June 2, 2011

Forget the Food Pyramid: Try the Plate... Or the Pagoda

My Plate (Image: USDA)
Just when I finally came to terms with the fact that I should probably start paying more attention to the food pyramid, the USDA dumped it in favor of a plate (with a semi-detached dairy circle/glass).  They've also launched a new website choosemyplate.com with a very long list of guidelines to accompany "the plate".  I must admit that I haven't made it through all the guidelines yet.

I've been distracted by this link to other food pyramids  from around the world from the European Food Information Council.  Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the article to see the actual graphics.  It's riveting.

The Swiss pyramid councils citizens to eat sweets and fats "sparingly, with pleasure".

The German pyramid is 3D-- which sounds cool (especially if you're me)-- until you realize that it's wildly complicated.  There's even a plate on the bottom of the German food pyramid so you have to "pick up" the computer generated 2D graphic representation of the 3D pyramid to figure out what it says.  Impossible.

The Spanish have a wheel with water and two people running people in the center.  Awesome.  Running is the only form of exercise I find exciting, but only when I'm already in really good shape.

The French use stairs.  The Hungarians built a house.  And the Chinese have a pagoda.  The Estonians have a pyramid with a skateboarding dragon at the bottom of the pyramid and a demonic cat fishing with a carrot on a stick at the top.

Clearly a nation's food guideline graphic reveals a wealth of fascinating cultural information.  I wonder what  our simplistic plate linked to a maze of linked text say about us.  Does it say that Americans like to pretend things are easy even when they aren't?  Does it say that the U.S. government thinks Americans are stupid so they're keeping information to a minimum?  Or is it that we all already know what we SHOULD be eating without looking at some kind of lame graphic?

We know what we should eat.  We just don't want to do it.  I know I don't.  Not when I've been sleep-deprived for a year or I'm in an incredible amount of physical or emotional pain.  At these times, I want to eat nothing but fatty, salty, starchy foods.  My favorite bedtime snack is homemade bread and a glass of milk.

I eat healthy foods when I'm already feeling good, which luckily is most of the time.  But when I'm feeling bad for an extended period, you'll find my cupboards well-stocked with potato chips and my refrigerator stuffed with a wide selection of cheeses.

For the sake of my children, I try to eat the way I want my children to eat.  I know if they see me eat junk they'll want it too.  So we eat mostly healthy foods most of the time.  But we do make brownies or cookies together when we have a free afternoon.  And I'm still trying to find a recipe for homemade bread that doesn't take all day.  If you have one, I'd love to get a copy.  In the meantime, I'll try to remain focused on the words of the Swiss and eat fats and sweets sparingly, with pleasure.