From left to middle: The USDA’s new “My Plate,” which replaces the previous “Food Pyramid.”
Right: Harvard Med School’s take on “My Plate”
Today in class, we talked a lot about food deserts and what restricted people’s access to healthy food. However, something that I couldn’t let go of was the question: What is healthy food?
In middle school, we were given nutrition classes, where we learned our generation was set to be the most overweight in history. We were told that our stomach was the size of our two fists and warned against eating food that exceeded the size. This was back in the day when the government’s food pyramid told us to make most of our food carbohydrates. Whole grains didn’t matter and caloric restriction was emphasized. I ignored the information.
Only 6 years later, the government has scrapped the pyramid in favor of “My Plate,” which now emphasizes making half of one’s plate fruit and vegetables– a recommendation that now falls in line with what I’ve been doing most of my life.
With examples like this, it’s no wonder that people don’t know what is good food. Interning in a corporate office this summer opened my eyes to people’s different definitions of what health meant. For some, it was a side of green beans cooked in butter. Others preferred Lean Cuisine. Overall, the general consensus was that only salad could be truly good for you. Weight loss was a constant concern for many, which turned food into the enemy to resist rather than a source of nourishment.
Nutrition and healthy food definitions change so often that I have all but given up following the recommended advice. When people ask me what’s best to eat, I would point them to Michael Pollan: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.