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    Archive for the ‘food pyramid’ Category

    My Plate: New Illustration, Same Problems

    Since last week, the arrival of the United States Department of Agriculture’s new “food icon” (aka “My Plate” or “the new food pyramid”) has been the hot topic in nutrition and public health circles.  Alas, at 10:45 AM EST today, the much-speculated-about illustration was finally revealed.

    There is no doubt this plate illustration is a more practical and “relatable” interpretation than both the 1992 and 2005 versions of the food pyramid.  There is no notion of confusing “servings” (leave it to the USDA to make a serving of grains equivalent to one third of a regular-sized bagel), and — finally! — grains no longer have the honor of “most encouraged food group” (they are now second to “vegetables”).  While many of my colleagues have expressed enthusiasm with, and acceptance of, this new plate illustration, my point of view is nowhere near as enthusiastic, for several reasons.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Food Exchange Lists

    3607-1I know that 1/8th of an avocado is considered one serving of fat but considering it’s also a vegetable, does it have a vegetable exchange as well?

    If I were to add a serving of avocado to my sandwich, is that a serving of vegetables in addition to a serving of fat?

    I’m confused about exchange lists.

    — Cate (last name unknown)
    (Location Unknown)

    Here’s some good news — unless you have diabetes (or provide nutrition counseling to diabetes patients), you don’t need to be familiar with exchange lists.

    Exchange lists group foods by nutritional composition rather than by the nutrients they offer (which is how the food pyramid classifies foods).  They were especially formulated to ease meal planning for people living with diabetes, who have to carefully monitor — and distribute — their intake of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.

    Exchange lists classify foods as:

    • Starches
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Very lean/lean/medium fat proteins
    • Non-fat/low-fat dairy
    • Fats

    Nutrition students often times get tripped up when they first learn about the food pyramid and exchange lists, since they can be easy to confuse.

    In the food pyramid, for instance, an avocado counts as a fruit serving (it is not a vegetable).  In the exchange lists, avocado is considered a “fat”.

    Similarly, while a slice of Swiss cheese falls under the “dairy” category in the food pyramid, the exchange lists classify it as a “medium-fat protein”.

    Why?  Cheese, ounce by ounce, has a similar protein and carbohydrate content to meat.

    In the exchange list, a “very lean” protein is one that, per serving, offers 35 calories and no more than 1 gram of fat.  Lentils, egg whites, and turkey breast all fall into this category.

    When figuring out what category the foods you eat fall into, go by food groups, not exchange lists.

    In your case, half a cup of avocado is considered a fruit serving.  Avocados are not considered part of the food pyramid’s “added oils and sugars” tip since an avocado contains a whole lot more than fat — it is also a wonderful source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.


    You Ask, I Answer: Food Pyramid

    Do corn and potatoes fall into the “grains” or “vegetable” category in the food pyramid?

    — Tom O’Farrell
    Boston, MA

    As far as the United States Department of Agriculture is concerned, potatoes and corn are members of the vegetable group.

    Remember, the food pyramid categorizes foods by nutrient profile.

    Although corn and potatoes are higher in carbohydrates than other vegetables, their vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient content is more similar to that of vegetables than grains (we are talking about corn-on-the-cob and baked potatoes here, not Fritos and Pringles!)

    I understand the USDA’s decision from a simplicity standpoint, but it is not completely accurate in the case of corn, which is both a vegetable AND a grain, depending on how it is harvested.

    Although most people associate corn with processed junk (where it either shows up as high fructose corn syrup or corn oil in ingredient lists), it offers a good amount of nutrition when eaten fresh (off the cob) or simply popped and sprinkled with a little salt, parmesan cheese, or nutritional yeast for flavoring.

    For what it’s worth, a large ear of corn contributes 127 calories — along with vitamin C, phosphorus, manganese, potassium, and most of the B vitamins — to your day.


    In The News: The Other Retirement Account

    When we look ahead to our older adult years, we think pensions, IRAs, 401Ks, and all those other acronyms associated with financial security.

    But what about our nutrition portfolio?

    Sally Squires tackles this issue in one of her latest Lean Plate Club articles (courtesy of The Boston Herald).

    In middle age (40 to 65), the body begins losing about 1 percent of muscle per year. Fat replaces the lost muscle. Since fat cells need fewer calories than muscle cells to survive, metabolism slowly declines.”

    In other words, the eating patterns that work at 25 are not as effective at 50, and certainly not appropriate at 75.

    Most nutrition advice in the mainstream media generally applies to a younger population (i.e: sodium recommendations of no more than 2,400 milligrams are acceptable for a 45 year old, but too high for someone in their 70s or 80s).

    Alas, Tufts University nutrition professor Alice Lichtenstein and her comrades have come up with a food pyramid exclusively for senior citizens.

    I particularly enjoy the inclusion of healthy choices throughout the entire pyramid (i.e.: the dairy group specifically illustrates non and low-fat products).

    Additionally, this pyramid is lifestyle-friendly — notice the ample inclusion of frozen, pre-cut, and ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables.

    [They] have a larger shelf life, require no peeling or cutting for hands tender from arthritis, and are often more economical for those on fixed incomes.” And they are just as nutritious, too!

    Older adults are particularly at risk for inadequate vitamin and mineral intake (a combination of increased needs and decreased consumption), so the hoisted flag recommending B12, D, and calcium supplements is a nice — and accurate — touch.


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