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    Archive for the ‘MyPyramid’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Following the Food Pyramid

    MyPyramidI classify my diet as “pretty healthy”.  I eat a variety of food and really limit processed junk and sugars.

    The other day I was reading the food pyramid [recommendations], and I realized my diet is a little off.

    For example, I am supposed to have 6 ounces of grains a day, but most days I get three or four.  Some days, my only grain consumption of the day is a cup of brown rice [2 servings] with lunch and a half cup [1 serving quick-cooking oats I’ll add to a smoothie (you suggested that in a blog post last year and I LOVE it!!).

    I eat a lot more vegetables than the food pyramid recommends, and some days twice the fruit than I “should”.  That is all [whole pieces] of fruit, not a bunch of glasses of Tropicana with breakfast.

    Should I be concerned about this?  Should I cut back a little bit on fruits and vegetables and eat more whole grains?  My weight is healthy, I feel fine, and I have never had cholesterol or hypertension issues or wacked levels of anything on blood tests.

    — Samantha Ondry
    (Location withheld)

    You don’t need to abide one hundred percent by the food pyramid (now known as MyPyramid).

    Lobbying and politics aside (ie: there is a “milk” group, as opposed to a much-more-objective-and-scientifically-sound “calcium-rich foods” group), the main point of it is to provide general guidelines to the general population.

    The main message I like to communicate to my clients about MyPyramid is that plant-based foods should make up a significant percentage of their diet.

    There is absolutely no need to be concerned about the fact that you are surpassing fruit and vegetable recommendations and “not meeting” grain recommendations, particularly if you are in good health and are not overweight, AND this intake is from whole foods.

    It’s important to note that many of the key nutrients in grain products are also found in fruits and vegetables.

    Would adding an extra cup or cup and a half of whole grains to your day hurt?  Not at all, provided you reduced calories from other foods to maintain your current caloric intake.

    Do I think you absolutely must increase your grain intake at the moment?  Not based on what you tell me.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    An average 6-piece inside-out ‘uramaki’ sushi roll (rice on the outside, nori on the inside, as pictured at right) at a Japanese restaurant in the United States contains 1 cup of rice.

    (Note: 1 serving of rice = 1/2 cup)

    This is a perfect example of a relatively healthy, low-calorie Asian meal undergoing a monstrous caloric metamorphosis upon arriving to the United States.

    In Japan, the vast majority of sushi is eaten nigiri style (this is where rice is compacted into a small rectangle underneath each piece of fish) or maki style (nori/seaweed on the outside of each piece.)

    It’s also significant that maki rolls are approximately a half or a third of the size of inside out varieties common on this side of the Pacific Ocean.

    This figure means that 6 pieces of an inside-out roll pack in slightly less than 200 calories from the rice alone.

    Order two of those puppies and you are up to 4 servings of grains, per USDA pyramid standards.

    Another calorie shocker? Spicy rolls contain anywhere from 100 to 150 moe calories than their traditional counterparts — the special sauce is basically mayonnaise with a kick.


    In The News: Revising the Food Pyramid

    The folks over at the Harvard School of Public Health — led by Walter Willett — don’t think the traditional USDA food pyramid (officially known as MyPyramid) doles out the best advice.

    So, they proactively designed their own version — The Healthy Eating Pyramid.

    You can see a nicely drawn PDF version by clicking on the link above.

    I prefer this version over the USDA’s, but have a few critiques.

    Although I like the inclusion of “daily exercise and weight control” at the base, I would prefer that section be titled “daily exercise and portion control.”

    Additionally, the “healthy fats/oils” category should place more of an emphasis on fats higher in Omega-3 (i.e: olive oil, walnuts, flaxseed) and less on ones offering very high Omega-6 levels (ie: soy and corn).

    As I have discussed in the past, an improper Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio has its share of health implications.

    Lastly, I strongly disagree with the inclusion of potatoes in the “eat sparingly” pyramid tip (accompanied by red meat, refined grains, sugary snacks, and salt).

    It is one thing to eat potatoes in their nutritionally void skinless, deep fried version.

    However, a baked potato, eaten with its skin, is a great source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, folate, and magnesium.

    Clearly, current obesity and diabetes rates can not be blamed on the ingestion of healthily prepared potatoes.

    Your thoughts?


    More Numbers, More Problems

    Behold the latest curveball thrown at supermarket shoppers — “grams of whole grains”.

    When this trend first started in early 2007, I inwardly cringed and hoped for its quick disappearance.  Far from it — I keep seeing it on more and more products!

    It is my suspicion that with whole grains and fiber being the latest hot topics, food manufacturers hope to confuse shoppers looking to increase fiber intake by boasting about the grams of whole grains in their foods — two very different concepts.

    Consider this your “advertising-proof” tutorial on whole grains.

    Let’s start at the beginning.

    According to MyPyramid (also known as 2005’s “food pyramid 2.0”), adults who ate 2,000 calories per day should consume 6 servings of grains.  The USDA defines a serving of grains as one ounce (28 grams). Remember that figure, it will come in handy very shortly.

    MyPyramid distinctly called for half of those 6 grain servings to be whole (i.e: oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat cous cous, barley, etc.), rather than enriched (i.e.: white bread, white rice, etc.).  Strangely, the recommendation wasn’t “at least three whole grain servings,” but simply “three.”

    This is where it all starts to get confusing.

    If one ounce equals 28 grams, and we are asked to make three grain servings (AKA three ounces) whole, then the recommended daily intake of whole grains adds up to 84 grams (28 grams x 3 servings).

    Alas, if you look up whole grain serving recommendations, you’ll see a daily suggestion of 48 grams per day.  Some simple math (48 grams divided by 3 servings) tells us, then, that one serving of whole grains equals 16 grams.

    “But I thought one serving of grain equaled 28 grams.  Why isn’t a serving of whole grains also 28 grams?” you may wonder.

    Well, most whole grain products contain a variety of ingredients; not just flour.  It turns out, in fact, that a one-ounce serving of whole grains contains, on average, approximately 16 grams of flour (the other 12 grams are other ingredients, including yeast, salt, oils, etc).

    Although food labels do not list grams of whole grains, you have two ways of finding this information out.

    One is by claims on the packaging (such as the “Now with 5 grams of whole grains per serving!” stated on boxes of Teddy Grahams).

    Usually, though, these claims are made by products that sprinkle a little whole wheat flour on top of a product that is virtually refined grains.

    Considering that you need at least 48 grams a day, 5 grams is a pretty pathetic figure to bother writing about in such large font.

    The other is via the Whole Grains Council stamp (pictured at top left), which specifically lists the grams of whole grains per serving in a product.

    Some companies are still using old versions of the stamp, which classified foods as “good” (8 – 15 grams of whole grains per serving) or “excellent” (16 or more grams of whole grains per serving).

    What about fiber? How does it tie into all this?  An item high in whole grains is high in fiber, but products high in fiber are not necessarily high in whole grains.

    An Atkins chocolate peanut butter bar, for instance, contains a whopping 10 grams of fiber.  Since this is a low-carb bar, you certainly won’t find whole grains flour anywhere on the ingredient list.

    So how is this value achieved? Thanks to a polysaccharide known as cellulose.  Keep in mind that while this kind of fiber helps keep things moving, there are specific substances in whole grains that have been targeted in nutrition research as helpful in reducing the risk of several diseases.

    So, how do you put all this together without going insane?  Simple. Try to consume 25 – 30 grams of fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds every day.  Generally, the foods that boast “x grams of whole grains per serving!” claims are wolves in sheep’s clothing.


    In The "News": USDA Food Pyramid

    Thank you to reader Antonella Montagna for sending me this wonderful piece from The Onion.

    The message couldn’t be clearer…


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