Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The circle of (food) life ...

I’ve gone through periods of my life where I eat very healthy. Those periods, however, are the exception — not the norm.

I grew up with four food groups, where things were “part of a complete diet,” or something like that. It was the nutritional standard from 1956 until 1992. There was meat, dairy, grains and fruit. Pretty simple. Even I could understand it.

But the year I left for college, the USDA went and gummed up the works, trading four food groups in for a food pyramid consisting of grains, fruits, veggies, dairy, meats and sweets.

This mattered none, however, because the college I went to had the best food. Seriously. And it was all you could eat, so I couldn’t care less what step of the food pyramid it was on.

After graduation, we were lucky enough to have money to afford food at all. And quickly thereafter there were only two food groups: Baby food and adult food.

The whole food pyramid was kind of complex, in my opinion. And never really caught on. It certainly didn’t in my household.

Actually, my household is an anomaly. I’ve joked with my kids for years that just about everything is good for you. For example, “Coffee’s good for you. It’s got vitamin C in it. The C stands for coffee.” Likewise, bubblegum has vitamin B in it, and so on.

Fortunately, my kids are smarter than me and ignore me when I say stupid things like that.
In 2005, the food pyramid got revamped into “my pyramid,” with the same basic info, but presented in a manner which was much less easily digestible. It was like the government didn’t want us to understand nutrition.

Last week, they ditched the pyramid altogether, thankfully, replacing it with “my plate,” which looks a whole lot like a pie chart. But don’t call it a pie chart. You’ll upset the USDA. Plus, pie is not a food group ... even if I think it should be. It’s got vitamin P, you know?

My plate shows that about half of what you eat should be fruits and veggies, with a slightly higher percentage being veggies. The other half should be grains and proteins, with again a higher percentage being grains. And then off on the side, there’s a separate circle for dairy. So we’re almost back to the four food groups, except they gave fruits and veggies each their own group. It’s five food groups. It’s much easier to understand than a food pyramid, that’s for sure. Maybe food pyramids would make sense in Egypt ... or parts of South America.

But this is America where everyone knows that circle gets the square.

For the life of me, I don’t understand why food doesn’t just come color coded at the grocery store. Green label means you can eat as much as you want (veggies, for example). Yellow label means eat in moderation (red meat, for example). And red label means eat very sparingly (Snickers bars). I mean, really, could it get more simple?

Well, sure it could. We could eat all of our meals through a straw like in the movie “Wall-E.” But that didn’t go so well for them.