My plate — a missed opportunity

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

November 2011

The USDA has replaced the food pyramid with My Plate, a more colorful, simpler guide to help Americans make better food choices. In its attempt to make decisions about nutrition easier the government failed to take a stronger stance in favor of the best possible choices, left some poor ones on the table and avoided giving specific guidelines.

My Plate is easy to find on the Internet by typing it in the query box of your favorite search engine. A positive element of this site is the vast number of links that answer scores of questions about nutrition.

Although My Plate recommends that half of any given meal should consist of fruits and vegetables, it includes fruit juice. Surely the USDA experts must be aware that 100 percent fruit juice contains nearly as much sugar as the average soft drink. Children over the age of 6 should have no more than 8 to 12 ounces a day and younger children only half as much. Infants below the age of 6 months should not receive any form of juice.

Government nutritionists send the wrong signal when they recommend on My Plate that half of our grain intake can be refined grains. If we eat grains at all they should always be whole grains. The USDA should have the courage to tell us to eliminate all refined grains or at least to eat them sparingly and to make them occasional treats. They are the leading contributors to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

My Plate includes luncheon meats, which are high in salt and preservatives and that are clearly linked to colon cancer. The site lists plenty of excellent sources of protein. It could encourage those and not mention the ones that we can do without.

It takes a little hunting to learn anything about trans fats. The description is accurate, identifying them as partially hydrogenated oils and common ingredients in baked goods. One more paragraph might have pointed out that "zero trans fats" on a nutrition label isn't quite correct. A food item that contains less than 0.5 grams per serving can be labeled as zero trans fats. Is this another example of government arithmetic? If partially hydrogenated appears on the label, take a pass.

Advising the public to "compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals" doesn't help much. No food should have more than 500 mg. of sodium per serving.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.