Thursday, June 30, 2011

Serving Up Simplicity

At the beginning of June, the US Department of Agriculture released its recent brainchild and announced that the food pyramid that everyone knows (and apparently hated) had been deconstructed and reformed with fewer edges: it's now a plate:
It makes a startling amount of sense. Most people didn't consult the pyramid and use it to create triangle-shaped meals, but with the plate it is much easier to visualize proportions, and if you are a stickler about it and have done some research, the MyPlate also comes with rules, such as avoiding overly large proportions and fatty meats as your proteins.

Humans are visually-minded creatures. As children we look at pictures of things we recognize in order to learn words and then apply that to letters and spelling. In terms of visualization, the food plate fits fabulously into the human brain and will be a superb building block for children. 

However, is it too little too late? Is it enough? Can a new food pyramid - er, plate - change wide-spread poor diet choices? Of course not.

But what the new plate does show is that there is change a-comin'. And thankfully, the changes are not what we've seen in recent history. The blame-the-victim mentality for overweight and obese individuals is being shoved out of the window by many foodie and nutrition groups; there are projects to nurture both food and knowledge; and nutrition labels - that have long resembled the Da Vinci Code for many people - are being redesigned as well (and moved to the front of the package, to satisfy the majority of consumers' three-second attention span):
There is even a contest (it's happening now!) to redesign the nutrition labels. It's a chance to show off your smarts and your arts, as it's being judged both by functionality and design. One of the judges is foodie/intellectual (or foodie intellectual, really - no slash required) Michael Pollan, who is known for his smart but scathing criticisms of the way food functions in the United States, from the soil to your plate (and especially scathing for those foods that didn't even begin in the soil, but in a laboratory). Check out all the information here, even if you don't want to enter, because at the very least, it's interesting. If you click on the "Why it Matters" link on the website, you will see the truth: "this is confusing." Amen. (This statement is backed up by the fact that the FDA has a website devoted solely to explaining the nutrition label.)

In all, it is a relief to see several factions pushing towards simplicity. Hopefully the movement snowballs in this direction. We did not all take advanced algebra and courses on CIA-style decoding to apply towards deciphering nutrition labels. We want to eat, and feel good when we're done. Simple.

If you're curious about some of the pioneers to simplify food:

Check out some of Michael Pollan's books here.

Find out what food did in Kris Carr's life (and why we should maybe be moving faster with healthy foods campaigns).

And a friend from way back when who has since become a one-woman natural foods knowledge bank helps incorporate simple (yay, more simplicity!) ways to improve the way you eat.

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