Plate replaces pyramid
The Good Life
with Eli F.J. Tajanlangit
There is at once nothing new and something significant in the new food plate that the United States Department of Agriculture unveiled late last week. The plate is the new dietary guideline for Americans ; it replaces the food pyramid as the recommended template of what Americans should be eating to be healthy. Like the pyramid, the plate is expected to be used the world over, including here in the Philippines, and not just by Americans.
The composition of the plate is, well, nothing new. We’ve known it all along, in fact, food activists have been batting and battling for it for the longest time. The food plate, the USDA is now telling Americans, should be composed of 50 per cent fruits and veggies, a little over a fourth should be whole grains and the rest, protein. It now relegates dairy to a mere side dish. This is how we should eat for health the plate is urging.
While we know this all along, the plate comes to us with some surprise. Its very clear declaration that half of what we eat should be veggies and fruits is a departure from the confusing presentation in the food pyramid, a confusion that activists have claimed have been the handiwork of the very powerful meat and dairy lobby in the US. Some people have resigned and given up the fight for clearer nutritional guidelines realizing how powerful this lobby is. I don’t think a lot of people expected the USDA to declare, and in very simple terms and colorful, easy to comprehend graphic, that to be healthy, we need to eat more vegetables and fruits and just a modicum of dairy and protein. The weight of the obesity epidemic and the long list of diseases and problems it brings must have played a significant role in this. America, and the world, cannot continue ignoring the obesity problem.
This new food plate will not end on the dining table. Once it catches on, and I hope it catches on fast, it will alter market demands, and once demands change, farming priorities should follow. The food plate will certainly impact on our farms and food manufacturers and producers.
Farmers and producers should deliver what the market demands, not the other way around. In the first place the obesity epidemic exploded simply because consumers, who did not know any better, whose only basis for making their food choices was the food pyramid, embraced what they have been brainwashed to believe – that it was better to eat beef from corralled cows than those which grazed on nature freely; that chicken doesn’t have to grow its full range of muscles so they come tender.
The food system that feeds America and the world has mindlessly gone for convenience over health and other considerations, producing easy to cook foods and meals that have either been stripped of vitamins and minerals or were overloaded with dangerous flavor enhancers.
I guess this is one instance when our colonial mentality should be allowed to work: let us copy the USDA’s food plate.
But in copying, some caution: we must use our local resources. Here, on this space, is the food plate interpreted the locavore way -- using local way -- by graphic artist Daryl Jimenea. We cannot have lettuce and spinach for the veggies and nectarines and tangerines for fruits. Aside from being expensive, there is also the matter of practicality.
Because hey, for all you know, our bugnay fruits and lupo leaves may pack more vitamins and minerals than their Western counterparts. And they come indisputably fresher to us because we know where and when to pick them for our plates.*
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