Wheels, Pyramids, and Plates – Oh My!

Blog / Monday, June 18th, 2018

Our nutritional watchdog, the US Department of Agriculture, has changed its recommendations over the years, leaving each age group with a different idea of how best to make food choices. Advice you get from your granny, your mom, and your children is going to be dramatically different – and probably confusing. How can you make good food choices?

Michael Pollan gave us 57 food rules in his eponymous book. That’s a lot more rules than most of us can follow. How about three rules? Sounds good?

Rule 1: Stop eating CRAP.

CRAP = completely refined and processed foods. How do you tell if something is CRAP? Look at the ingredient list. If there are

  • more than five ingredients
  • several different kinds of sugar (brown rice syrup, HFCS, dehydrated cane syrup, agave syrup, malt syrup, molasses, anything ending in -ose, etc., etc.)
  • chemical names you don’t recognize (e.g., sodium bisulfate, nitrates)

then it’s probably not a good food choice.

Rule 2: Eat your colors.

If you try to make each meal and snack as colorful as possible, you’ll be on the way to improving your nutrition. Try to include different colours of greens, vegetables, beans, and fruits. Mix fresh and frozen to get the necessary colors.

Rule 3: Eat whole foods.

“Whole” foods have not been processed in a factory or lab, or been minimally processed. In general, processing reduces a food’s value, by removing fiber and valuable oils that could go stale. As long as foods have been processed enough to be “bioavailable” (i.e., changed to a form your body can use), the less processed they are, the better they are for you. For example, oat groats > steel-cut oats > old-fashioned rolled oats > quick oats > “instant” oatmeal.

While there will probably be trade-offs in applying these rules, “whole” does not mean “organic,” so you don’t need to pay a premium for this. Whole foods will take more time to prepare than prepackaged foods. With planning, this is not an issue, and the increase in your well-being should be worth it. The cost should average out: Some whole foods are going to be more expensive, others much cheaper than processed alternatives. Since whole foods are delicious but not scientifically designed to be “hyper-palatable,” you may find that you eat less. You’ll be more in control.

How much is your health worth to you?