Diet, nutrition and healthy eating: Part 3 {Guest Column | Health & Wellness}

Julie Drake


Special to the Herald Times

RBC | I have several sets of “dishes” in my house.  Everything from paper to plastic to Corelle to Noritake. Then there is “My Plate” that I hope to put on the table with each meal.  What the heck is “My Plate” you ask?

In 1916 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) began offering guidance to the general public about healthy eating in their periodic Farmers Bulletins.  The first was titled Food for Young Children written by a USDA home economist. They followed with bulletins about how to select foods based on what the USDA felt the body needed in each era. In the 1940s the “Basic Seven” food groups were announced and education commenced. The seven were:  green and yellow vegetables (oranges, tomatoes, grapefruit, salad greens); potatoes and other vegetables and fruits; milk and milk products (meat, poultry, fish or eggs); bread/flour and cereals; butter and fortified margarine (with vitamin A).  This was deemed too complex and lacked specific serving sizes. The recommended diet then evolved into Food for Fitness—a Daily Food Guide in the mid-1950s.  This was the beginning of what some people still refer to as the “four food groups.”  Milk, meat, fruits/vegetables and grains. In 1979, fats, sugars and alcohol was added as a fifth group for use in moderation. Various graphics including pyramids, stair steps, and wheels were introduced along the way, but the four basic groups remained the core. In 2011 a novel new graphic was introduced that has proved to be simple and yet memorable.  The current USDA guidance for a healthy diet is called “My Plate.” Fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy are still there, but now it includes a category for protein.  This allows flexibility for those that choose to be vegetarian, vegan, Paleo, etc. The main premise has survived through the years that variety, moderation and proportion is key to any healthy diet.  The use of the word “my” is not by accident either, this is to imply that each person’s diet can be unique to them. 

What will the next dietary advice look like?  Chances are, there will not be any global dietary advice.  Recommendations will probably be unique to each person.  There will be a day when we will send a microbiome sample (probably a stool sample and oral swab) off to a lab and later receive a customized dietary recommendation based on the unique bacteria in our body.  This is already being done in Israel.  If you are up for a fascinating TED talk, look up Eran Segal from the Weizman Institute of Science where this process is explained in detail.  In the meantime, portion control, variety and exercise really cannot be argued by anyone.  As for myself, I like a calorie cycle diet. 

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