In June 2011, The USDA released a replacement for its current food pyramid that was first constructed in 1992. The Obama administration took on a simpler approach to healthful eating and called it ‘My Plate’. Instead of making sure people ate multiple servings of grains, ‘My Plate’ broke down the diet into an easy visualization of what Americans should eat at each meal. Half of the plate consists of fruits and vegetables. The other half includes whole grains and protein. An additional recommendation included a cup of low fat milk per serving. The four parts of the plate are broken down into color codes red for fruit, green for vegetables, brown for grains and purple for protein. The intent of this approach is to make it simple and easy for Americans to understand.
Obesity in America Has Reached a New Level
Some unbelievable statistics from obesitycampaign.org include:
- Today two-thirds of U.S. adults.
- Nearly one in three children struggle because they are overweight or have obesity.
- Obesity is the reason that the current generation of youth is predicted to live a shorter life than their parents.
- Twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent. Today, more than two out of three states, 38 total, have obesity rates over 25 percent.
Why Are So Many Americans Obese?
When we look at the cause of obesity it comes down to two simple points – the American diet and lack of activity. The American diet includes way too much food and defiantly the wrong type of foods. The American food industry continues to direct us to think that we are eating such rich healthy foods, but in essence these foods contain a significant amount of processed carbohydrates and bad fats. Many people do not understand what makes them obese! One of the main factors involves an overabundance of processed carbohydrates. From a physiological standpoint, the processed carbs are easily digested in the intestinal system. The byproduct is a surge of sugar into our blood stream. Our muscle and liver use and store this sugar, but most of the time extra sugar is just surplus with no purpose. A hormone called insulin will surge in relationship to the amount of sugar. The extra sugar gets converted into triglycerides and stored in our midsection and thighs as fat. As times goes by if insulin cannot control the sugar then the individual may develop high blood sugar or diabetes.
Ditch the Processed Carbs
So, we need to get rid of the processed carbs and eat more complex carbs. The complex carb takes much longer for our digestive system to break down so we do not get the surge of glucose and insulin. So many times people do not understand the idea of processed carbs versus complex carbs. I tell my patients to ask themselves this question: “Can I pick it or grow it?” It’s as simple as that! You can pick fruits and vegetables. You cannot pick or grow bread, pasta, white rice, bagels, chips, etc.
Americans need to become more conscientious of the foods that we place in our mouths by also considering the sources of these foods. The American diet needs to return to the foods that our great grandmother would prepare for us for dinner. They would use wholefoods. Maybe we need to go back a little further in history when things were much more simple – the hunter and gathers.
So remember to think of the portions on the plate but also remember to ask yourself: “Can I pick it or grow it?” It’s as simple as that!