Saturday, September 17, 2011

Harvard's Healthy Eating Plate!

After introducing the USDA's MyPlate back in June, Harvard is now releasing its own modified version of the plate: the "Healthy Eating Plate" to which some - healthy & useful - changes have been made!

Here is what the Healthy Eating Plate recommends:

  • Make half your meal vegetables and fruits. I always love emphasizing on the importance of veggies in one's diet and this plate serves us right! If you notice, they mentioned that potatoes and french fries don’t count as vegetables, a point most people mention when you tell them fries are not veggies! So there you go, plain and simple.
  • Choose whole grains whenever you can and limit refined grains such as white rice and white bread because they are broken quickly by the body, leading to a less sensation of satiety and quicker feeling of hunger.
    Now what I loved about this is that when you say the word "refined carbs", many may think of pastries alone but few may relate the word "refined" to white bread and white rice, so now you know!
  • As for your protein intake, it's time to let go any red meat, bacon, cold cuts and processed meats! Go with healthier sources of protein, such as fish, beans, nuts and poultry!
  • Healthy oils (like olive oil and canola oil) are recommended here! For many years, fats have been demonized to "cause" an increase in obesity prevalence world-wide! Now I am not saying they are not, but nowadays, studies have showed that different types of fats (Mono/polyunsaturated VS saturated/trans/hydrogenated) have, in fact, different effects on one's health! In addition, recent studies are drawn to "blame" refined carbs as much as unhealthy fats, so quality and quantity of all carbs, fats and proteins are crucial for a balanced diet.
  • As for your beverage choice, drink water, tea, or coffee (how many cups??) with little or no sugar: a very important point to emphasize - avoid added sugars, go easy on juices and sugary & fizzy drinks! Moreover, what I loved the most is limiting milk and dairy to no more than 1-2 servings per day! They are not must-have foods so when you have your labne/yogurt/milk/cheese in the morning, don't have another for lunch! Recent studies have been pointing out to the "not so wonderful" effects of dairy products! More research is definitely needed; however, dietary guidelines are being influenced by food politics (meat and dairy industries) so let's wait and see!
  • Last but not least is to stay active - a very important aspect, so forgotten in the USDA's Myplate! Exercise is the most essential habit you can adopt along with a healthy dietary habits!
The USDA is being influenced by food politics - but to what extent exactly? Food industries and agriculture interests are affecting MyPlate more than science. Now of course MyPlate was based on scientific research but one can't deny the fact that meat and milk industries are exerting their own influence. So let's hope the Healthy Eating Plate is based on nutritional science more than external non-scientific influences!
Better yet, my question is: To what extent does this improved plate really reflect what the Lebanese community is ought to eat?

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