Only a year ago my daughter came home from school, proudly passing on all she had learnt about the food guidelines that she was being taught at school. They were the same guidelines, based on the food pyramid, that we had taught to us when I was at school (some 27 years ago!). Thankfully nearly 40 years after the food pyramid was released, they have given it a bit of an update. It is now marginally better. Sadly they had to wait until the original guidelines had wreaked devastating consequences to the health of many thousands of people, before they saw fit to change it.
The kids also came home with the HORRIFYING statistic that by they time they leave school 80% of their friends will be obese……… and yet the information they are being taught isn’t changing!!! Can anyone else see something wrong with this picture? ….. If we don’t change the way people are eating, as a society, this statistic will become a reality.
So lets take a quick leap back in history and have a look at how we came to be in this crazy epidemic of disease ……
In the late 1970’s the USDA put together a team of nutritionist to come up with a food pyramid that was to set the standard for eating in the western world.
This is what the nutritionists came up with:
- Cut down heavily on empty calories and health depleting junk food.
- 5-9 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- 5-7 ounces of Protein foods (meat, eggs, nuts, and beans)
- 2-3 servings of dairy
- 4 Tbsp of cold pressed fats like olive oil and flaxseed in addition to naturally occurring fats in food
- 2-3 servings MAX of grains, and always in their whole form (this is equivalent to one sandwich).
- Sugar should be well below 10% of total calories
- Strictly limit refined carbohydrates
OK – this sounds like pretty sane information to me. SO WHAT WENT WRONG?
The above recommendations were sent off to the Secretary of Agriculture for approval.
This is what came back:
- 6-11 serves of grain per day. Gone was the advise to eat only whole grains, leaving ultra-processed wheat and corn products back on the menu.
- 4 servings of dairy
- Cold pressed fats were removed
- 2-3 servings of Fruit and Veg (this number was later doubled following pressure from the National Cancer Institute)
- Moderate sugar intake (hmmmm what exactly should that mean? Moderate being only 6 cans of coke a day instead of 8 ???)
The team of nutritionists that came up with the original guidelines were horrified and predicted that this adjusted food guide would turn Americans Health into an inevitable train wreck. “No-one needs that much bread and cereal in a day unless they are elite athletes”, and giving Americans a free starch gorging pass would unleash an unprecedented epidemic of obesity and diabetes.
The following is the justification given by USDA for complete undoing the advice given:
The changes would help curb the cost of the food stamp program: fruits and vegetables were expensive and from a nutritional standpoint, the USDA considered them somewhat interchangeable with grains. Emphasising grains in the American diet would help food assistance programs stay within budget. (CRAZY!!!!)
To read further on this subject I recommend Death by Food Pyramid by Denise Minger.
Looking on 40+ years to 2016, what are our children facing now …
- On the basis of present trends it is predicted that by the time our children reach the age of 20 they will have a shorter life expectancy than earlier generations simply because of obesity.
- If weight gain continues at current levels, by 2025, close to 80% of all Australian adults and a third of all children will be overweight or obese .
- Diabetes Australia Victoria statistics show 27,000 Victorians were diagnosed with the disease last year, the equivalent of 74 cases a day.
- The stimulant prescription rate for Australian children increased 34-fold in the past two decades.
- In addition to this more than 40,000 Australian children are on antidepressants and antipsychotics, some for ADHD including Strattera. Strattera is an antidepressant marketed as an ADHD drug with the strongest warning that can be placed on a drug in Australia, a “Boxed Warning” to warn of suicidal behaviour .
- The 2012 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Careers, showed an estimated 115,400 Australians (0.5%) had autism. This was a 79% increase on the 64,400 people estimated to have the condition in 2009 .
- The “allergy epidemic” is a major public health issue predominantly facing Western countries, including Australia. There has been a rapid increase over the past 30 years in the prevalence of allergic conditions such as asthma, eczema and food allergy .
Today the Australian Government are still advocating dietary guidelines that recommend a consumption of grains that is equal to our consumption of Fruit and Veg. Not only this, they are pushing low fat dairy, continuing to feed the belief that fat makes you fat and unhealthy. To highlight the absurdity of this suggestion we need to understand that our brains require fat to work. In addition to this, the very nature of ‘low fat’ products is that they have been processed to removed the fat and then to worsen the situation further they add in a load of sugar to make the product palatable …. hmmmm ….. and some remain confused as to why our society continues to get sicker and sicker.
This is a link to view our current guidelines ……
Anyhoo here are the guidelines that I choose to follow, which are in line with the original suggestions that were sadly ignored by those that should have know better, nearly 40 years ago!
- EAT REAL SEASONAL ORGANIC FOODS – (avoid processed foods, flavours, colours, numbers, preservatives and genetically modified foods (GMO’s)).
- Ensure the largest portion on your plate is vegetables.
- Eat fresh seasonal fruit
- Eat organic, grass fed, free range, ethically produced meat – use your palm size as a guide to portion size.
- Eat fats from nature, stay away from hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Great examples are avocados, nuts, coconut oil, and organic animal fats.
- Consider dairy carefully. I do advocate natural yoghurt, for those that can tolerate it, for the beneficial bacteria’s that are so crucial to a healthy gut.
- Incorporate fermented foods into your daily food intake to support a healthy microbiome.
- Be cautious when eating grains. I am not Paleo, and whilst being Paleo is awesome for many it is not right for all. I do however advocate being gluten free, there is enough evidence now to show that gluten is a real problem for the vast majority of people. If you are eating grains please eat them minimally and educate yourself on the correct preperation methods. Choose organic, gluten free grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, rice, millet, quinoa, and sorgum.