I want to share the exchange pasted below that I had with a Small Bites reader earlier today to help clarify my strong position not only on My Plate, but on other nutrition-related issues. I find it troublesome that finding fault with offered solutions is often times viewed through a lens of dissatisfaction and pessimism, rather than an acknowledgment that the offered solutions either have flaws or do not really attempt to solve the problem at hand. It would be disingenuous on my part to pretend that my intense hunger for change to our food system can be abated with a smattering of bread crumbs.
If I were cynical, I wouldn’t take the time to inform myself of — or blog about — the issues that affect our food system. I would simply shrug and say, “Nothing is ever going to get fixed, why should I bother?” I consider myself a realist because I believe that if the problem is approached from a different angle (one that focuses on policies and laws), we would see more substantial change.
Reader Seth Lawton writes (note: I have edited his comment somewhat; you can see the full one in the comments section of the post right below this one):
“I read your post [on My Plate], and followed you and @appetite4profit [Michele Simon] tweeting the press conference, and all I could think to myself was,’ Wow, I’m on the same side but they’re so incredibly cynical and negative’.
I don’t think any guideline will be perfect, and MyPlate isn’t a homerun, but it’s a step forward in so many ways. To wit:
- Plants dominate!
- The visual is so much clearer than the rainbow-striped pyramid.
- Dessert is nowhere in sight. Must be optional!
- An unequivocal ‘eat less’ message. That never happens! The word ‘more’ is absent.
- Water instead of sugary drinks? Pinch me, please.
You decry food industry lobbying, but where was Big Soda and the sugar refiners when the part about avoiding sugary drinks was inserted? If meatpackers had their way, forget the Trivial Pursuit wedges—there would be a silhouette of a steak taking up most of the plate.
And then you point out that MyPlate’s message doesn’t jibe with other actions from our government, but for goodness sake, Andy, that’s not MyPlate’s fault! It just got born. Why not say what it’s doing right and work backwards to bring those many other government actions into line with what MyPlate does well?
Here is my response:
I do not consider myself cynical or negative, simply a realist. Our food system is broken, and rather than attempt to fix and rebuild structures, we’re ooh-ing and aah-ing over how awesome that new painted wall looks — it’s the equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns. I have acknowledged that My Plate is more “relatable” than the pyramid, and that vegetables are given more prominence. However, we can not forget that we must fix the food system.
Slapping on a new house of paint on — or mowing the lawn of — a dillapidated house that is unlivable does not solve the root problem. We can not expect change unless we show that what passes for “progress” is anything but. How else do you think the civil rights movement, or Stonewall, got started? People were fed up and said “NO MORE”.
To answer your points:
1) Plants also dominated in the other two food pyramids, so how is My Plate an improvement?
2) The visual is clearer, yes — I stated this in my second paragraph
3) Dessert is not in sight, sure… but aren’t most “kids’ cereals” desserts?
4) “Eat less” was already in the Dietary Guidelines. Yes, “My Plate” restates it, but it is not unique to the plate. Also, the “eat less” message is not depicted in the illustration.
5) Same with “water instead of sugary drinks” — not depicted in the actual illustration. And, again, it’s a moot point when schools serve chocolate milk every day.
I am not blaming My Plate for anything, all I am saying is “forget this shiny new toy and keep demanding better policies from our government!”.”