Friday, July 15, 2011

Food Pyramid? Food Plate Guide? Magic Food Bowl-Thing?

I know this is old news, but I only just managed to wander over to the USDA site and see what they wanted me to eat and how.

Back forever ago (like, last month, give or take a couple weeks) there was the food pyramid. You ate the stuff on it, or tried to, or pretended to, though most peoples ended up looking like some kinda deformed hourglass-piles of "grain" and "meat", no veggies or fruit, and a top seriously over-packed with sugar and oil and salt (and whatever else they tossed up there that tastes good and is totally bad for you). Me, too--snacks are better than fruit!

So now they've got this new "plate" plan. Which looks like, s'prize! A plate. With a cup.

Which, if you eat a normal omni-kinda diet, or in an American diet kinda way, probably works. I like that they've changed "meat" to "protein", but they still call the calcium part of the meal "dairy" which is silly--calcium comes from places other than animals (like tofu and collard greens, yum).

It works for the SAD because each "type" of food gets a spot on the plate. Like those sectioned plates I like eating off of, each type of food has an area with an amount of space in it to fill. Fruit and veg gets half, with veg taking up about 2/3's of the side. Protein and grain gets the other half, with grains taking up the bigger chunk there. And "dairy", of course, off to the side.

When dinner is steak, potato, broccoli, and sliced tomatoes with baked spiced apples for desert, that works great. (Let me know if you can't figure out how to bake spicy apples--it's freakishly easy, only the timing really matters...)

When dinner is pizza, it gets a bit tougher. And if dinner is a tasty bowl of yumminess? Who knows how you're supposed to judge then. Don't even try to figure it out if your meal contains both calcium-rich veggies and beans (both fit in at least 2 categories).

So I thought I'd draw my own food map. Or two. I know not everyone prefers to eat out of a bowl.

The protein is probably a bit small, I admit. But the bowl shows about how I eat. When I'm stuffing my face on healthy stuff, I pretty much follow this--anyone who's followed along as I scarfed down bowl after bowl of fried rice should recognise the approximate design there. I just pile it all in, mix it up, and eat. Works best with things that should be eaten together, by the way--like pasta with super-veggie sauce and some pan-seared tofu.

Not so good for stuff that wants to stay separate--steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, and salad would look gross served this way. Stirfry? Tastiness.

For those of you who eat more "normal" food. If you played with this, it's probably a bit more than half veggies. Then some grain and "extras" and protein tacked on there in the bottom. The only time I really eat anything that would be broken down like this is if I'm eating left-overs, at a restaurant, or hard-core craving food that doesn't "bowl" well. Like sammiches. Oh, or if I have to eat with other people who think it's odd to fill a serving bowl with a day's worth of food and just re-heat as needed.

Now, I admit, this is in no way scientific. And it looks really nothing like their plate. But it works for me.

Also, I played around with the "meal plan" generator. It's... interesting. I'm underweight (BMI-wise, kinda) and a slug, so it gave me a choice of "maintain weight" or "slowly gain weight"--1800 or 2200 kcals a day.

Um... I'm averaging about 1900 a day right now and (pretty totally sedentary) I'm losing about a pound a month at this point. I think... Could be more. They didn't have an option for me to lose weight though. Looking at the suggestions (6oz protein, 7oz grain, 3c veg, 1.5-ish fruit) I can *see* that it's not enough. Sure, I'd feel full. 3 cups of veggies will do that to a girl. And I think that was the 2200 calorie choice. It's really not a lot of food. Actually, I'm not sure where they're getting their numbers from--7oz grain is 700cals, 6oz protein is maybe another 700, veggies are mostly calorie free... Was it all coming from dairy and fruit? That's crazy.

Anyway, just like the BSC food pyramid, I think the new plate system is screwed up. But maybe it'll help people who think a burger and fries is a balanced meal.

Nah, those people are lost forever.


  1. Ok, I'll fall for it ... how do you bake spiced (or spicy) baked apples?
    As long as they don't taste like ordinary baked apples, I might try them.

    janeyknitting AT yahoo DOT ca
    (Change caps to symbols and lose the spaces.)

  2. Apples, peeled/cored. Cut up smaller for (slightly) faster cooking. Attacked with some sugar, lots of cinnamon, some nutmeg and allspice, a bit of ginger if you like it. A bit of (cinnamony) abba juice in the bottom of the baking dish. You can add some butter over them, too, if you like. Bake at 350 until soft and yummy.

    Or you can pre-cook the apples like for apple-pie with the same spices (and butter if you like) and bit of juice, then dump into puff pastry shell and cook until the dough's done.

    Or you can pre-bake whole (peeled/cored) apples with the spices, *then* wrap them up in puff pastry and cook until the dough's done.

    Oh, yeah, and a bit of salt. Gotta have salt, or the flavor never comes out. If you're feeling lazy (and don't have anything else) you can totally just overload the apples with "apple pie spice". All the same.

    I like it with the powdered ginger, though. That bit's win.