"New" Food Pyramid.

This is a change that I was waiting for. In this blog, I have never talked about the food pyramid simply because I was never convinced that it helped us Americans. Even as a nutrition student, immersing myself in human nutrition for the last 4 years, I barely referred to the food pyramid. What I always believed in was the  simple image of an everyday plate cut into sections that makes it  easy to remember and practical for people to use. I even wrote a post on the healthy plate a few months ago, you can read about it here How to fill a Healthy Plate. If you haven't heard, the food pyramid has been swapped by something new. The government has officially replaced it with a fresh new idea called MyPlate.

When friends ask me advice on how to lose weight, I steer away from preaching about the top 100 health foods, or listing the "bad" foods and giving them a detailed list of what they should or should not eat. To answer their questions, I send my friends back to the basics. The basic task of setting up their plate.

I explained the MyPlate (although it didn't have an official name back then) to a few coworkers a couple years ago. I drew a large uneven circle and slashed a line vertically down it's center. The circle was now divided into half. I concentrated on the right half of the circle and carved an additional line, only this time I sliced my ball point pen horizontally. Now the circle was divided into three sections. This is the blueprint I used five years ago to lose 15 pounds. It is easy and effective and does a very good job of helping you eat more healthfully. The USDA has created something similar, the only difference is that the plate is divided into quarters--which is much less confusing--and a serving of dairy has been added to the side. Take a look. 

I'm not going to go into detail in every section of  MyPlate, but it is very important for you to pay attention to the kinds of foods you choose in each category. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Go for whole grains. Eat lean protein. And choose lean dairy. Some of you may already know this, but I've come across a few people who are following the MyPlate guide yet are still eating pork shoulder, a plate of processed pasta, and a full fat milk shake. No. You have to choose the right foods in each category. And I want to add and clarify three things that  MyPlate does not address. 

Whole grains are less processed than regular refined grains. Take for example brown rice. It has a chewier and nuttier flavor compared to regular white rice. Why? Brown rice has not been stripped of it's layers. For 30 seconds just picture a kernal of brown rice. There are three main layers: 1.) the bran layer, 2.) the germ layer, and 3.) the endosperm layer. The bran layer is where the money is at, nutritionally. It has ALL of the vitamins and minerals; vitamin B, vitamin E, calcium, zinc, selenium, iron, etc. This bran layer also holds a lot of fiber. The germ layer sits at the bottom of the kernal. It's rich in protein, healthy fat (polyunsaturated, in moderate portions this is fine in your diet), and more vitamins and minerals. Because this is what makes brown rice go rancid, it's removed to create white rice. This is why white rice has a longer storage life than brown rice. The endosperm, the third layer, is what white rice is made of--it is the most inner layer found in brown rice; but again, all of the outer layers are removed from brown rice to create white rice. In other words, the endosperm layer is white rice. Essentially, a whole grain is natural and hasn't been worked on too much in the factory. 

Why are whole grains better for me?

Brown rice digests slower than white rice. It doesn't convert to sugar as quickly as white rice does, and this is because of the present outer layers that are rich in the vitamins and minerals. Brown rice is a carbohydrate and so is white rice, so they both get converted to glucose, or sugar, and stored into the liver and muscles as glycogen when your body is in need of energy.  Both rices get converted to sugar, but because brown rice has the bran and germ layer intact, the conversion to sugar is much slower than if you ate a bowl of white rice. 

In short, choose whole grains not just any grains.
It's okay to eat regular refined grains like white bread or white rice, but be cautious of how much you're eating.  In Indian cuisine, rice is more than a staple. It is a necessity. My dad always eats a heaping mound of white rice and later complains he "feels funny" shortly after dinner. We learned later that he has type 2 diabetes and the white rice, which converted into sugar, was irritating his diabetes. Just be mindful of how much you are eating!

 Next, choose LEAN protein. 

Chicken breast, turkey, Canadian bacon, pork tenderloin, sirloin, egg whites (yes the yolks are full of cholesterol, but the nutrients are awesome; no more than 1-2 yolks per day), tri-tip steak, flank steak, beef tenderloin, venison, bison, etc. Pretty much any protein with the word "loin" or even "round" in it is a good lean choice. When purchasing ground meat choose 90% lean or more because this means that 10% of that product is fat. My fridge is stocked with ground turkey and 95/5 ground sirloin (95% lean 5% fat) to make tasty burgers. 

Finally, choose lean dairy.

Go for low-fat milk most of the time instead of whole milk or 2% "reduced fat" (which is actually quite high in fat even with the reduction). Low-fat yogurt, low-fat sour cream, part-skim mozzarella, and Neufchatel cream cheese are lean dairy options. What I don't recommend doing is buying fat free cheeses--it's like chewing on burned tire rubber. When an ingredient is "fat free", it's safe to assume that it has been swapped with artificial flavorings and chemicals to make it taste like it is "full fat". You don't need that extra crap. Eat the real deal, just less of it, but savor every bite. The recipes I post will guide you reasonable serving portions for full-fat cheese like blue cheese, Parmigiano Regiano, Gorgonzola, or even fancy French cheeses like Brie or Camembert. Goat cheese and feta cheese are naturally lower in fat. They add the same slightly sour and salty taste like any other cheese but the bonus is lies in it's lean fat content.

MyPlate is a great visual to have in your mind when you are setting up your plate. Use it! But be sure to choose whole grains, lean protein, and lean dairy.   



Why is everyone in such a noisy scramble in the mornings? The sense of hastiness to get the kids set for school or to quickly toss on  work clothes leaves very little time for yourself. It seems that the rest of the world knows how to relax a bit more than we do. I'm sure you are aware that breakfast is important. The importance of breakfast is slapped onto the cover of tabloid magazines, mentioned by coworkers in the morning as they shamefully guzzle down their latte from Starbucks, and it's even noted by Mc'Donald and Wendy advertisements--because they want you to buy their food. Healthy breakfasts are daunting to people, but they don't have to be. A post I wrote a few months back, How to Fill Your Plate, shows you what food groups to include when having a meal; this recipe follows that model.  The truth is, breakfast can take 10 minutes of your time, granted that you have the ingredients within your reach and ready to use. Here is one quick idea.



1 egg, beaten
1 slice whole wheat bread
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup fresh cherries
1 small peach
1 sprig of chives
dried basil, optional
salt, to your taste

1.) Heat 1 teaspoon oil over high heat. Add the egg. Leave alone 10-20 seconds, then begin scrambling with a fork until cooked. Sprinkle with salt.* Cut the chive sprig with kitchen shears onto the egg. 
2.) Toast the bread in a regular toaster. Cut long matchsticks using  kitchen shears. Drizzle the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle a little salt and dried basil. 
3.) Arrange the fresh peaches and cherries on the plate; add the egg and fresh fruit.

Serve with one cup low fat milk, if desired.