New American Plate
Simple Rule of Thumb to Combat Obesity and Be Healthy
you’re like us you listen half-heartedly to the
conflicting reports on what constitutes a healthy diet.
We’ve barely digested the no-carb, low-carb craze.
We followed, with curiosity, the developments on the
raw food and macrobiotic front, and we witnessed and
partook in the low-fat/non-fat wave of the early '90s.
We’ve spun around the food pyramid often enough
to know that diets don't work.
in our efforts not to diet, there are days when "being
good" means eating for health, and there are those
when breakfast is a bagel and latte, lunch a sandwich
and dinner a slice of pizza. Where’s the balance?
And what about the average American consumer? According
to the latest numbers by the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC), two-thirds of U.S. adults are
overweight with more than one-third obese with special
health risks. More alarmingly, obesity, diabetes and
metabolic syndrome figures are on the rise for children
and adolescents. Every
day, we consume 251 calories more than we did 20 years
ago. That's an increase from 1,996 to 2,247 over the
last 20 years—or an extra 26 pounds annually.
We certainly don’t follow our "five a day."
We are a nation that is obese, tired, anxious and depressed.
But how do you get a society to change its eating habits?
our country's efforts to combat obesity, we
are finally receiving some help on the legislative
front and from big corporations. In California,
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is considering
improving the nutritional quality of school
lunches by banning the sale of junk, sodas
and sugary snacks in favor of milk, fresh
fruits and vegetable. Elsewhere, grass roots
organizations like happycow.net and meatout.org have been receiving press. Happy Cow is a
worldwide vegetarian guide with a searchable
database of vegetarian restaurants. Meatout
is an international observance trying to promote
the benefits of a plant-based diet, and the
availability and selection of meat and dairy
alternatives in the mainstream consumer market.
American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has published
a "simple rule of thumb to help an increasingly
confused public implement the USDA Dietary Guidelines
for Americans 2005.”
found that people tend to think about their diet in
terms of meals," said Karen Collins, RD, AICR Nutrition
Advisor. "We tell them: Start by taking a good
look at your plate."
veggie you add to your meals literally adds years to
your life. And, every time you add a plant food that
makes a rare appearance in your refrigerator, say bok
choy, fennel or mung beans versus the usual carrots,
peas and broccoli, your body absorbs the special nutrients
they have to offer and you are immediately benefiting
from them. And finally, think of meat as a side dish.
Can we follow these simple rules?
"new guidelines are the first to recognize the
role of healthy diet in reducing risk of some cancers."
But how do you keep from feeling overwhelmed by their
many specific goals and their highly specific, quantified
doesn’t have to be so daunting," said Collins.
"Simply make sure to fill at least 2/3 of the plate
with a variety of plant foods like fruits, vegetables,
whole grains and beans, and leave only the remaining
room—1/3 of the plate or less—for animal
protein. That’s a clear, direct and effective
way to eat in accordance with the 2005 Guidelines at
every meal," according to Collins.
designing meals with this easy-to-remember advice in
mind, people can lower their risk for cancer, heart
disease, stroke and other diseases. And when it comes
to healthy, gradual and safe weight loss "adopting
the 2/3-to-1/3 proportions effectively re-shapes meals
so they are higher in fiber and lower in fat and calories
than the traditional American meal," according
to the AICR.
1. Two thirds of your plate: Plant foods like vegetables,
fruits, whole grains and beans
2. One third of your plate: Fish, poultry, meat
or lowfat dairy
3. Include fruits or vegetables at every meal
4. Think of meat as a side dish
5. Eat smaller portions
6. Every little change counts: Just add another
veggie to tonight's dinner!
7. Every new grain, fruit or bean you add provides
8. Keep physically active
9. Develop a real-world sense of what's a serving
10. Think about how many calories you need (less
if you sit at a desk all day)
add a second kind of vegetable to tonight’s dinner,
or make what they call a "one-pot meal like a stew
or casserole" with veggies, whole grains, beans
and less meat. You need not worry about ketosis or buy
a food dehydrator. You don’t have to count calories
or net carbs. Eating can become pleasurable again, doubly
so because it’s for your health. Plant foods are
naturally low in calories and fill you up quickly. Also,
they have a lower energy density, which is good. Foods
with a extremely high energy density in comparison to
their weight (e.g. a Big Mac) confuse the brain’s
appetite control system—a quick road to obesity.
Vegetables and fruits have a very low energy density
and are water-heavy food. If anything, you should be
looking for food with high nutritional density! Tempeh,
a fermented soy product, for instance, is one of the
most nutritionally dense foods around.
all it takes is a sensible approach to eating, and despite
all of the fad movements of the last three decades one
thing has remained constant: the power of plant food.
For more information, including a backgrounder entitled
"Plant Foods and Weight Management: The Science
Behind Energy Density," visit www.aicr.org.
Also find 200 recipes in The
New American Plate Cookbook.