The pyramid is now a plate! Earlier this month the USDA came out with their new ChooseMyPlate image and dietary guidelines, replacing the Food Pyramid that had its own problems, as I discussed here. The plate took several years and $4 million to create – yet it resembles a TV dinner with its four compartments and is supposed to be easier for Americans to understand – because well, we eat off a plate and not off a pyramid.
At first glance it’s nice to see that they have half the plate as fruits and vegetables, and the vege section is a bit larger than the fruits. But that was just a glance. It’s interesting that they have protein as its own piece of the pie because protein is not a food, it’s a nutrient. Then off to the side in a nice circle oddly resembling a glass of milk is the dairy section. That gets special attention. They note that the dairy is for calcium and that’s really what that circle is for but if that’s really the case then why not just put calcium there – that’s a nutrient, just like protein. Ah – the dairy industry is getting some special attention.
Breaking this plate apart further, they recommend that dairy be either low-fat or fat-free. Sure, a lot of saturated fat from dairy can be harmful to some people, but the dairy fats are necessary for every healthy person, some more than others. Kids particularly need a good amount of saturated fats for their nervous and hormonal systems, and the fats are necessary for metabolism of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. But this “Dairy” piece is even more nauseating because they included calcium-fortified soymilk in the group, but they don’t include cream cheese or butter because there is no calcium. Huh? That’s dairy. Soymilk should never be consumed due to the estrogen-mimicking properties it contains due to the soy processing. Milk, (oh, I mean calcium), continues to be the rave of the USDA and most physicians still push it like crack in downtown Detroit; it is clearly an industry financed incentive. I don’t see any dark green leafy vegetables on their list for calcium. I guess the kale, spinach, and collard greens didn’t have the cash to get their own piece on the plate – they’re all very high in calcium though. Oranges and almonds have calcium too.
The Protein section recommends processed soy, which not only is suggesting adverse hormonal effects, but MSG too. (Maybe MSG should have its own sliver of the plate?) Nuts and seeds, which are fats, are in this group too. Hey – where are the fats anyway? Someone forgot them. Beans are here too in the protein section – even though they’re carbohydrates.
The Grain group at least recognizes that there are whole grains and refined grains, so that’s a plus. But then it’s heavy into recommending whole wheat products, something most people need very little, if any of. Many cereals, such as Lucky Charms and most of the obvious kid-marketed brands call themselves “whole grain” because they started with a whole grain as an ingredient – way, way, way back at the beginning. Even if you’re not one of the approximately 18% of the population who is allergic to gluten (wheat, rye, barley, and some oats), eating gluten is often not necessary. When is it okay to have some if your body can tolerate it? – after intense or prolonged (2+ hours) physical activity. Otherwise, stay away from gluten containing carbohydrates (grains).
The Vegetable section includes a little bit of everything. The veges you should be eating a lot of (dark greens, avocados, colorful peppers) as well as ones you shouldn’t be eating much of (corn and potatoes). Corn and potatoes are starches and should be in the grain group but you’ll find them here, next to carrots and kale. Beans are here too, I don’t know why. But they are, and they’re in the protein section too. And I’m still looking for healthy oils like coconut oil and olive oil.
Let’s finish off this disaster with the Fruit group. Ideally, most should only be consuming 2-3 servings of fruit a day, not roughly ¼ of your daily plate. The USDA though says whether they’re canned, dried, or fresh – all the same. Nice. Juice is here too, yeah kids. I’m surprised Gatorade isn’t somewhere in here – maybe with the next revision.
The message here is clear and hopefully you won’t pay any attention to this plate. It’s a recipe for low energy, inflammation, overall poor health, and disease. I’d love to see this plate be replaced with a large cylinder and called MyTrashCan. And I’ve given up looking for olive oil and other healthy fats.
The DRGPlate – it’s approximately 90% organic and roughly 1/4 vegetables (not corn or potatoes), 1/4 protein (eggs from my own hens, hormone free meats, MSG-free whey protein, raw cow milk, whole milk organic yogurt), 1/4 fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, extra virgin olive oil, butter, coconut oil, cheese), 1/8 fruit (nuthin’ canned), and 1/8 grains (quinoa, oats, rice, buckwheat, some corn and potatoes). Then I sprinkle my plate with some good treats like organic dark chocolate and some honey-sweetened goodies and finally smash that ridiculous glass of milk and replace it with something my body is 2/3 of – water.
Agreed. Uber confusing and lame.
Will you be kind enough to send your recommendation to USDA to correct their food plate so the public will not be totally confused??? Thanks for the updated newsletter.
I thought you said fat and protein were nutrients, not food? Also, are you telling me potatoes are grains?
Yes, fat, protein, and carbs are nutrients. I think you’re referring to the fact that I put them in my DRGPlate? I did so because fat and protein are actually easier to group that way. You can do it with carbs too, but then you have the grains, veges, and fruits to divide again. It’s okay that the USDA Plate is done that way, but they’re inconsistent and do it to put things where they shouldn’t be (ie beans, nuts, milk).
Potatoes act like grains in regards to metabolism, though they are veges.
Hi Dr. G – You mention eggs from your own hens. I’ve been thinking about doing this and would love some guidance about getting started. If you haven’t already written about this, can you add it to your list of future topics? Or possibly post some hepful links? Thanks. Your articles are great!
Elisabeth Lewis Corley says
too funny. if it weren’t so sad . . . thanks.
What’s the rough macronutrient breakdown? I assume you don’t track it on a daily basis, but if you had to guess an average, what would it be for fat, protein, and carb percentages?
That’s individualized but generally I see people to do best around 20-25% protein, 20-30% fat, and the rest carbs. The majority of carbs – say at least 50% – should be from veges, then the rest from fruits, grains, beans. More activity = more carbs. Less activity = less carbs. But in general, those are good starting points to increase or decrease from.
Hi Dr. G –
Are you essentially saying bread is bad, other than after a hard workout? I take my lunch to work so I can eat organic, and it’s often whole wheat bread, ham or turkey and a slice of cheese. Should I lose the bread?
Yes, in general it is. Whole wheat is often not really “whole” – still refined to a certain depending on the brand you’re eating. Plus gluten products are hard for most people to digest. You’re better off with some other grain if/when you need to have them in your diet.
Dr Robert Bock says
I loved the article and the sarcasm. I couldn’t agree with you more and loved the way that you put it.
Traci Philips says
Excellent! Thanks for the direct facts and humor!
Lovin’ your review of the absolute travesty that the US government has made out of this. I do get a kick out of the fact that soymilk made its way into the dairy section. Obvious plug for the government-subsidized soybean farmers of the US. It’s a sad day when the farmer beds with the politician. No good has come of that unholy partnership, and it’s only serving to further destroy the health of this country and the very land which sustains us.
Thing are so confusing these days. My question is related to breakfast. I have been eating what I always thought a healthy breakfast, containing a mixture of rolled outs, seeds, yoghurt, berries. Yet, more and more comments are popping up to stay away from wheat and grains. Plenty of reading available about wheat, but what about other grains, like Oates, whey, etc. No good? Why not? What should we be eating for breakfast these days?
Check out the Paleo Type diet for more info. https://drgangemi.com/2011/07/paleo_diet/. (Whey is not a grain.)
Hello, I am on Fodmap diet to control ibs symptoms. soya therefore is the easiest replacement for dairy. dairy triggers my ibs. how would you reccomend i build a plate thst keeps me healthy and avoids soya?
Dr. Stephen Gangemi says
I don’t recommend any “plate” diet. Check out the Paleo-Type diet advice and the other recommendations.