Posts tagged ‘food news’

April 23, 2012

Negotiated Nutrition Advice

Have you heard of MyPlate? It’s been around since last summer, and it’s the USDA’s new graphic to replace the Food Pyramid. If you ask me, it’s a big improvement. This was by and large the food world’s response as well. Naturally, there is still room for improvement.

Marion Nestle gave a concise review in the San Francisco Chronicle. She commends the USDA for covering half the plate with fruits and vegetables, recommending that half of grain servings should be whole grain—let’s face it, it should be all of them–but points out that the protein and dairy sections are not necessary. “Protein is not a food. It is a nutrient” as she puts it.

In the months since its release, MyPlate has inspired some intelligent variations. One of my favorites is this one from Grist that cites a Washington Post article (interesting in itself) and illustrates the chasm between recommended diet composition and what we’re spending our tax dollars subsidizing. The contrast couldn’t be more stark and is a great reminder that we pay for cheap food with our taxes, personal money, health and environment. The point being that it isn’t actually cheap. The lion’s share of the subsidy plate is covered with protein and dairy…not things we should be eating so copiously. Think about that when you’re paying as much for a pound of apples as a pound of ground beef.

But if you’re looking for actual advice on how to eat, the one to use comes from the Harvard Health blog. It is intended as a

Reasonable eating advice from Harvard

challenge to the USDA’s plate and might have come from the USDA itself if big food didn’t wield so much influence over policy. Remember that we subsidize protein and dairy and so are encouraged to consume a lot of both. If I had to choose a target plate, this is the one I would follow. Unlike the USDA, the Harvard School of Public Health can come right out and tell you to limit refined grains, dairy and processed meats. This plate could easily represent a vegan diet, something that really can’t be said for MyPlate. If you’re confused at all about what your diet should look like for your health, take a look at this one. The commentary is short and to the point.

We’re in a mainstream food environment now that has profits for large companies at its core and billions in advertising (and lobbying) money at its disposal. While MyPlate is a drastic improvement on the food pyramid, it doesn’t come from an objective science-based perspective. Here’s some simple advice that does, and it’s from Michael Pollan: Eat food (as opposed to edible food-like substances). Not too much. Mostly plants.


February 22, 2012

Food in the News

It seems to me lately that the food industry is getting a lot of media attention—much of it unwanted. Part of that is probably because I follow news outlets that report on these things, but in general the companies who feed us appear to be coming under new scrutiny from the public and the media alike. Here are some of the stories that have caught my attention lately:

Protein Propaganda: I cannot express how thrilled I was when Grist started its series on protein a few weeks ago. This piece of the series focuses on the equivocation between animal products and protein. If you think of meat when you think of protein, thank the meat and dairy industries and their respective lobbying and marketing efforts. Never mind the evidence that plant based protein is plentiful and better for your health than animal based. If you’ve ever hesitated at the idea of foregoing meat at a meal, please, PLEASE read this. And if you’ve ever wondered how much protein we actually need, or what its environmental impacts are, or anything else about protein, really, this series is for you. Grist has done a fantastic job of outlining the status and importance of protein in the US.

Tomato Politics: If at some time, when you’ve come into a grocery store, you’ve gazed in curiosity at mounds of fresh tomatoes, glistening at you as you take off your scarf and gloves as you come in from the cold, and wondered where these mystical orbs could be from, check out this Mother Jones article. At the very least, these (likely) crunchy- and pink-inside spheres of summer are global travellers, and odds are, they caused some kind of strife wherever they came from. This article examines just one sliver of the organic winter tomato industry and it’s not a pretty picture. The solution presented is pretty simple: if you want tomatoes in winter, buy them canned. I’d recommend looking for BPA-free cans, but those can be hard to find. Better yet, buy local tomatoes by the crate during the high season (when farmers or friends with gardens will practically pay YOU to take them away) and take up canning.

And then there’s Dairy: Sometime in the last decade or two, soy milk stopped being something you could only find at a co-op if you wore vegan sandals and hemp clothes. It’s pretty mainstream now and has a lot of closely related cousins. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of milk substitutes, unless you count coconut milk out of a can (not the drink and not the light kind). My love of coconut milk is as a cooking ingredient—seriously, put it in your soup. Apparently the dairy industry doesn’t like having competition and has mounted a campaign to diss and discredit its imitators. We’ve arrived at Small Bites, with a quick overview of the industry’s new “Real milk comes from cows” campaign. I hadn’t heard of the campaign, but it’s an interesting industry reaction to changing public sentiment. I like the point in the article that “real milk” could just be considered milk in the form it leaves the cow, rather than the pasteurized, skimmed, homogenized kind you get at the supermarket—if you want to know too much about that, check out this Food Renegade bit on “real” milk. Yuck!

One of the really big stories lately has been McDonald’s telling its pork suppliers to stop using gestation crates for their sows. It’s been covered in a number of outlets, including by Mark Bittman for the New York Times. Good for them, and it is a positive step. But, I can’t help wondering—maybe this is just my ignorance because I don’t go to McDonald’s—what’s on their menu that includes pork?