Healthy serving suggestion

Federal officials unveiled the nation’s revamped nutritional guidelines graphic on Thursday, replacing the current “My Pyramid” with the new “My Plate.”

For quick comparison purposes, “My Plate” does not look like the plate in the Thursday front-page photo of Hans Lienesch, aka the Ramen Rater, the online reviewer of packaged Asian instant noodles. (Lienesch is aware of his plate’s problem, telling Herald reporter Noah Haglund that at one point, a diet forced him to take a break from the high-sodium, high-fat noodles).

The new plate graphic has four labled sections. (Sort of reminiscent of the old aluminum TV dinner tray compartments. Was a product ever so honestly named as the “TV dinner”?) Two larger spots are for vegetables and grains, and two smaller areas are for for fruit and protein. A circle to the side represents dairy. A fork sits to the left, the lone eating utensil. (Definitely not Emily Post’s “My Place Setting.”)

What, no dessert category? Where did the fats and oils go? (To be used “sparingly,” as the pyramid said.) Fats and oils are gone under the more streamlined chart, designed to emphasize that good nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

Vilsack and First Lady Michelle Obama are on the defensive from Republican critics who accuse them of meddling too much in the nation’s diet. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been issuing nutrition recommendations since 1894, when W.O. Atwater printed a Farmers Bulletin, emphasizing the importance of variety, proportionality, and moderation in healthful eating, according to the USDA.

“Unless care is exercised in selecting food, a diet may result which is one-sided or badly balanced, that is, one in which either protein or fuel ingredients (carbohydrate and fat) are provided in excess …” Atwater wrote. “The evils of overeating may not be felt at once, but sooner or later they are sure to appear,perhaps in an excessive amount of fatty tissue, perhaps in general debility, perhaps in actual disease.”

Research has proven him right.

It’s easy to understand why the GOP, in its spending bill, would balk at the proposed “voluntary guidelines” aimed at stopping the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, but objecting to the overhaul of the public school lunch program is misguided.

The changes include: Schools would have to cut sodium in subsidized meals by more than half, use more whole grains, serve low-fat milk and limit “starchy vegetables” (french fries) to one day a week.

These are sensible, responsible changes that will save money and improve health over time. Serve it up, on a compartmentalized plate.

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