Tag Archive | US Dietary Policy

haiku for you

eggs of many colors

Different Colored Eggs  Image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

I just had a new culinary experience. Recently, I was able to escape for the weekend to the beach. After a few hours’ drive with more than a touch of slow-moving traffic, my sister-in-law Eva and I arrived in the lovely coastal town of Newburyport, Massachusetts just in time for dinner.

While stuck in traffic we tried to think about where we would eat, but once there we just decided to see where our feet and stomachs would lead us. We found ourselves in Loretta, a small, cozy restaurant in the center of town with an interesting menu. Actually, each dish we shared presented something unusual and delicious, but it was the grilled romaine salad that surprised and delighted me.

I do live a rather small, parochial life, but I’d be interested to know if anyone else has ever had a grilled romaine salad. Fortunately, we were sharing, because most of a full head of romaine lettuce, each leaf brushed in olive oil and grilled whole, arrived before us, draped in a creamy and chunky blue cheese dressing, and adorned with some pickled beets and cherry tomatoes. The grilling of the lettuce lent a delicate smokiness and crispness to each bite that was wonderful. That salad was deserving of a Haiku, which is what I initially sat down to write about.

As you may recall, in my last post, Dietary Haiku, I put out a request for such. I am so pleased to report, that I received four. Now, that may not sound that impressive but they are each so beautiful, and I want to share them with you in hopes that you will see, as I have, that I think I am onto something. I hope you will now be really inspired to compose your own and to send it my way.

In response to the mundane display of the USDA MyPyramid–really just a triangle if you ask me–and now supposedly, The Plate, guiding our dietary intake, I have decided to place one of these Dietary Haiku on each of my future posts. I think you will agree that they are more inspirational and joyful. Soon then, I imagine that this little idea will spread (and go viral) and we will have created a more meaningful message and conversation about food and eating that started right here.

I was discussing this idea with my daughter and her friend at the dinner table tonight, and they raised some good questions. Jonathan wanted to know if the themes had to be positive or could they be negative–like a 5-7-5 syllable format ending with that is so yukky! I said I would encourage everyone to keep the message affirming. Zena wanted to know how we would market or copyright this idea so that we might get rich because someone else was likely to come along and start promoting Dietary Limericks. I didn’t have an answer to that, but if you do, can you please send it to me in lieu of or in addition to your haiku, limerick or another poetic expression of dietary inspiration. Submissions can be placed in the comment section.

So, here are these beautiful poems in the order I received them, along with one of my own. Thank you to the four of you who got it and shared your little gift with me. I will keep incorporating these and hopefully, this collection will grow. Pl

   Are we what we eat

Or do we eat what we are

     Are they the same thing?     

— Julie

The farmer’s market

Each egg at the dairy stand

A different color

— Enki

Spread peanut butter

On whole grain, sweet, dark brown bread

Raspberry jam-Yum!

— Barbara

Food made joyfully

As a gift of time and self

Feeds body and soul

— Anne Marie

Deep scarlet red beets

Reveal your sweetness to me

Slip out of your skins

                                                                                                — Elyn

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

Related Recipe: Grilled Romaine Salad with Blue Cheese

Related Posts: Dietary Haiku, Accepting Haikus

Your Pyramid

As a nutritional professional, I would like to share with you some tips on eating well.

For today, let’s start with a simple tool that is available to all Americans, brought to you by the US Department of Agriculture. You can probably find it right in your own kitchen–check your cereal boxes–the MyPyramid. Yes, that is your pyramid folks. Your tax dollars have paid for it–it would be a shame to see it go to waste. To the untrained eye, it appears like a triangle decorated with multi-colored vertical sections of varying bandwidths– with an alien climbing up some stairs on the side. However, hidden in that simple representation, is the culmination of US Dietary Policy.MyPyramid

The MyPyramid has been personalized just for you. Very obtusely, it suggests moderation, proportionality, variety, activity–and if your version happens to say on the bottom, steps to a healthier you–gradual improvement. Boy, you are lucky I am here.

Our government has been trying to figure out how to inform the masses about good nutrition since about 1916. Granted, this is not easy and I imagine those who’ve been assigned the task have resorted to some serious stress eating. By 1956, using a minimalist approach, the four food groups, which I grew up on, became the model of nutritional dictate. Many people still adhere to this model–but having forgotten what those four groups actually were, actually make up their own. My husband’s preferred groups are ethnic food, ice cream, popcorn (whole grain) and carbonated beverage.

In the late 1980s, having a few years of nutrition counseling experience under my belt, I took a sabbatical to do some focused research in two distinct areas–both of an anthropological nature. The first included infant and toddler feeding with my son as the subject; and the second involved serving lots of burritos and chimichangas to gringos in a very popular Mexican restaurant. The first was more adorable–though the latter was more lucrative.

When I returned to the field a few years later, I learned that we were soon to be blessed with a long-awaited update of the dietary guidelines–with the experts busily designing what was soon to be ubiquitously known as the Food Pyramid. After years of deliberation and millions of dollars, it was officially released in 1992–smack with 6-11 servings of essentially refined carbohydrates literally forming the base of its recommendations. Having recognized that the American diet was somehow connected to a plethora of chronic diseases, and using evidence that cultures who ate traditional diets–which included some high carbohydrate foods like manioc root, taro, and sorghum–were not plagued by heart disease, colon cancer, and diabetes, the experts interpreted this to mean we should increase dietary attention to carbohydrates. Fats became increasingly vilified, and giant bagels and bowls full of pasta were elevated to celebrity status.

I was there. I witnessed it all–and I rubbed my forehead in disbelief. You see, I come from a long line of bagel eaters. Don’t get me wrong. Bagels are very good. They contribute to comedy and to cream cheese. However, it is obvious that this is not the foodstuff of those who epitomize extreme physical perfection and longevity. If obesity and chronic disease prevention or lean and mean was what we were seeking, why were we not promoting the Hunza, Masai or Okinawa Diet? Modern, western scientific orientation would continue to dismiss cultures who have powerful food beliefs or view food as medicine.

But, so it was. By 1996, just four years after the introduction of the Food Pyramid, the unprecedented increase in obesity, childhood obesity, diabetes, along with some other surprising health concerns was making the headlines. In 2005, after a mere thirteen years in existence, the Food Guide Pyramid was to be declared obsolete. President Bush, as part of his Healthier US Initiative, introduced the dumbed-down version of the pyramid, that we are now fortunate to have at our disposal today.

Really, I do not wish to appear so cynical. But, when I look at that colorful triangle, I see what is hidden behind. Not a line drawing but real flesh and blood citizens seriously affected by the lack of a meaningful food policy in this country. I see a populace who was sufficiently seduced and ate what it was fed.

This may seem a moot discussion. It could be argued that few people even pay attention or that the situation will change shortly with the soon to be released 2010 Dietary Guidelines. Many are already aware of the competing interests that influence our health and nutritional policies. However, the reality is that it says a lot that that triangle says so little. And, it still represents the foundation of many dietary organizations.

If you are holding a cereal box, take a deeper look. If it is a highly processed, artificially colored, multi-sugar sweetened, perversely marketed candy imposter–put down the box, back away and wonder what right the triangle has being on there anyway.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn