The USDA today unveiled the new plate that replaces previous versions of the "food pyramid" intended to guide Americans in their nutritional choices. But is it any improvement over the older versions?
Michelle Obama is pictured with the new design, a dinner plate where Fruits, Grains and Vegetables occupy most of the servings, with just under a quarter of the plate reserved for "Protein." And for "Protein" the average American will probably substitute the word "Meat." But wait a minute. I thought the USDA told us that grains and vegetables were also Proteins.
These figures, also from the USDA, analyze the protein content for average portions of various food groups:
Pinto Beans 15.41 g
Ground Beef 21.73 g
Bulgur 17.21 g
Chicken Drumstick 15.80 g
Alaska King Crab 16.45 g
Canned Pink Salmon 16.81 g
Sliced Ham 9.41 g
Lentils 17.86 g
Split Peas 16.35 g
Trail Mix with Seeds & Nuts 20.73 g
Soybeans 28.62 g
As a vegetarian (a vegan, actually), people frequently ask me "where I get my protein?", as if grains, nuts and legumes aren't full of the stuff. I'm afraid the new "food plate" will lead to the same confusion among most Americans, who will continue to suppose (wrongly) that meat and dairy products are necessary to a balanced diet.
It would be interesting to know how much input the dairy industry and packing houses like Swift and Armour had into crafting the new guidelines, because clearly they weren't designed by nutritionists and don't even reflect the USDA's own data.
Excessive meat and dairy intake accounts for many of the chronic diseases afflicting our country, from obesity and diabetes to heart disease, stroke and cancer. For good health, a diet that focuses on plant-based foods just makes sense.