In my recent critique of the new USDA dietary guidelines, I wrote that we’ll never see a real food version of MyPlate as long as the food industry holds sway over the guidelines and USDA continues to promote industrial foods.
While this is true, there’s no reason we can’t create our own “Real Food” version of MyPlate to promote what we think is healthy and what’s not. Read more
The USDA finally did away with the much-maligned Food Pyramid and replaced it with MyPlate. Many in the food world are calling it progress. It’s certainly a clearer and more concise image and deserves some credit for the fact that half of the plate is comprised of fruit and vegetables.
“This is a step in the right direction,” Marion Nestle wrote in an email. “It’s the best they could come up with and some education needs to go with it, as always.”
In my view though, when you look a little deeper, you see that beyond the clearer image not much has really changed. Read more
Chemicals and additives found in the food supply and other consumer products are making headlines regularly as more and more groups raise concern over the safety of these substances. In a statement released yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) asked for reform to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. The group is particularly concerned about the effects these substances have on children and babies.
Last month, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) held hearings on the safety of food dyes but failed to make a definitive ruling—the most recent study on Bisphenol-A (BPA) added to growing doubts about its safety but the FDA’s stance remains ambiguous. Meanwhile, in 2010, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the FDA is not ensuring the safety of many chemicals.
Yet while the FDA drags its heels and hedges on the safety of these substances, Americans are exposed to untested combinations of food additives, dyes, preservatives, and chemicals on a daily basis. Indeed, for the vast majority of Americans consuming industrial foods, a veritable chemical cocktail enters their bodies every day and according to the GAO report, “FDA is not systematically ensuring the continued safety of current GRAS substances.” Read more
Over five million children ages four to 17 have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the United States and close to 3 million of those children take medication for their symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But a new study reported in The Lancet last month found that with a restricted diet alone, many children experienced a significant reduction in symptoms. The study’s lead author, Dr. Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Centre in the Netherlands, said in an interview with NPR, “The teachers thought it was so strange that the diet would change the behavior of the child as thoroughly as they saw it. It was a miracle, the teachers said.” Read more
One in four children goes without breakfast each morning, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a tragedy to be sure—but are Kellogg’s breakfast products the solution?
Last week Kellogg announced its new project called Share Your Breakfast, part of a national advertising campaign. The project asks Americans to upload their breakfast photos to the Web site shareyourbreakfast.com, and for each breakfast photo shared, Kellogg Company will donate up to $200,000—the equivalent of one million school breakfasts to help feed children from food-insecure households. Feeding hungry children sure sounds nice, but filling hungry bellies with highly-processed junk foods is hardly the answer. Read more
The low-fat trend finally appears to be on its way out. The notion that saturated fats are detrimental to our health is deeply embedded in our Zeitgeist—but shockingly, the opposite just might be true. For over 50 years the medical establishment, public health officials, nutritionists, and dieticians have been telling the American people to eat a low-fat diet, and in particular, to avoid saturated fats. Only recently, have nutrition experts begun to encourage people to eat “healthy fats.”
Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama told reporters that she would promote breast-feeding, particularly among African-American women, as part of her campaign to reduce childhood obesity. In response, the Internal Revenue Service announced that breast pumps would be eligible for tax breaks. Strangely enough, this simple notion to encourage breast-feeding—which has been shown in many studies to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity and could actually reduce government spending—is the latest idea to be attacked by conservatives. Read more
Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) publishes dietary guidelines for Americans. The 2010 dietary guidelines are in and to spare you the trouble of reading the 95-page report, here are the key points: Enjoy your food, but eat less; avoid oversized portions; make half of your plate fruits and vegetables; switch to fat-free or low-fat (one percent) milk; compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals and choose the food with lower numbers; drink water instead of sugary drinks.
These are decent and reasonable guidelines for the most part, and in general, the response from experts has been subdued—no one is jumping for joy, but no one is up in arms either. Read more
Since Walmart’s announcement last week that it will “reduce sodium by 25 percent, eliminate industrially added trans fats, and reduce added sugars by ten percent by 2015,” some experts on food policy and health are claiming this is a step in the right direction, an encouraging sign of progress. Still others think the jury’s out and it remains to be seen if the initiative will prove beneficial. From a nutrition perspective, I find both of these claims faulty. If we intend to take the obesity and diabetes epidemics seriously, and if we truly care about the abysmal state of health of the American people, we cannot put our faith in an empty Walmart promise that barely scratches the surface of our country’s food and health crisis. Read more
Working with people as a nutritionist, I’m often met with resistance. I try to explain making healthful food choices without using trigger words like organic, sustainable, or even local. “When I hear the word organic I think of Birkenstock-wearing hippies in Cambridge, Massachusetts or Berkeley, California,” one of my clients told me recently. Other clients have referred to whole, organic foods as “yuppie food.” There’s no doubt that food choice and diet is an indicator of class and culture, but what perplexes me is this notion that eating a diet of processed, sugary junk foods is what the “real” Americans eat. Read more