PART III – My Plate Versus Your Plate
By Brent Leung, C.N.
In 2011, the U.S. government scrapped the Food Guide Pyramid for a new visual aid of healthy eating called My Plate. If you’re looking to hang expensive art in your home, print out this new logo and frame it. After all, this Picasso-worthy design cost about two million in taxpayer dollars and took some two years to develop.
Pricey art aside, the new visual aid is equally troublesome as its cousin, the Food Guide Pyramid and accomplishes nothing, if guiding the public to better health is the goal.
Many argue that the plate is nothing more than a reincarnated veil for big agriculture and industry, since its architects include industry-friendly economists and policy advisors. One need look no further then the blue beverage of choice on the chart; it’s not water. Nutritional experts have criticized all aspects the plate, and rightly so.
Take the perplexing category of protein, for instance. It’s not a food cluster like grains, vegetables and fruit. Protein is a nutrient. So why is a nutrient lumped disingenuously on My Plate as a broad food category? The pessimist would pontificate powerful meat lobbying industries favour public perception of meat and protein being one in the same rather than revealing vegetables, fruits, grains and milk all contain protein themselves. Conjecture aside, using our imagination, let’s delete the protein category from My Plate and increase the size of vegetables, grains, and fruits. The outcome is a map leading eaters to superior sources of protein. “But what about meat?” you might wonder.
Rather than being a pessimist, let’s put faith in Uncle Sam and conclude he’s encouraging us all to be vegetarian. After all, meat like fruit is a food group, yet a meat category is completely absent, sharing no real estate on their Plate. This would be novel notion, given the recent 2012 and 2013 reports from the largest trial to date on Seventh-Day Adventists’ which revealed colossal health benefits for vegetarians, compared to their carnivore counterparts.
One final consideration, just because meat is a good source of protein, that doesn’t mean it is a smart source. Coal is a good source of power, but if we look at its other effects, such as its devastating ramifications on the environment, the hazards to human health from mining, the destruction of forests and wild life, and the never ending flow of toxic waste contaminants adulterating our water supply, we quickly realize coal is a dangerous source of power. The question then remains, is there a better source for protein?
Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis writes, “I’ve found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete. In fact, my best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet.” In 1991 during the World Championships, at the athletic old age of 30, Lewis shattered the world record taking first place. It was as he stated, “the best race of [his] life.”
“While 56 million acres of U.S. land are producing hay for livestock, only 4 million acres are producing vegetables for human consumption.”
~ U.S. Department of Commerce, Census of Agriculture ~