Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Green Options - Eat Food. Not Too Much. Translated.

As part of Eco-Libris' ongoing content partnership with Green Options Media, today's post was originally published by Beth Bader on Eat.Drink.Better. Though today's post is not directly related to books, you will see that it is corresponding with Michael Pollan's great books.

plate2.jpgSo, when Michael Pollan set forth his short mantra on food, what did it all actually mean when you go to fill your dinner plate? For starters, we eat too much in general, and too much of the wrong things. Following are some very specific guidelines on actual portion sizes, and tips on eating right without dieting. I hate dieting.

First, some general "gut checks" you should keep in mind daily:

  • How many servings of each type of food we should eat each day

  • All the different colors and kinds of veggies, and if you are eating a variety

  • Small meals and healthy snacks work best for moderating blood glucose levels

  • When is best to eat, and what combinations of foods are best for you (eating proteins with carbs to balance sugars for diabetics, for example)

  • The true size of a portion, and sticking to it

  • The tremendous amount of healthy food you can eat for the same amount of calories as a small bit of unhealthy food

These are good considerations. The trouble is, it is hard to do all that portion size measuring and planning when you are a busy mom. I mean, if I had that much time, I'd just work out more and keep eating ice cream. That's what always worked for me when I had time to work out and before I found out I have high cholesterol.

So, based on this here's my easy plan, my visual food mantra. See the plate photo at the top of the post? It's a normal size plate. I will not overload it or mound the servings to the rim. I will have three of these a day with half the plate holding fruit and veggies, one-fourth the plate holding a lean meat or vegetable protein, and the other fourth holding a whole grain.

Note that the meat/protein is NOT the main course, and not the largest section of the plate. We eat too much meat for health reasons and environmental reasons, and it's time to change that focus of the American plate.

I have to make adjustments for things like pasta dishes and other combination dishes. If I get hungry, I'll try to have a healthy snack. I will aim for 5-9 servings of vegetables and fruits per day, more veggies than fruit. I will try to make sure most, if not all, of my fats are healthy fats.

It won't work every day. I know this because I am a realist. But, I will aim to make it happen most of the time. And I will try to remember my portion sizes.

Some examples:

  • One serving of meat/protein = 3 oz.

  • One serving of vegetable = 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw

  • One serving of fruit = examples are 1 small apple, or 1 cup berries, or 1/4 cup dried fruit

  • Grains/Legumes/Starches = 1/3 cup cooked pasta, or 1/2 cup mashed potato, 1 slice whole grain bread (note that potatoes are not in the vegetable category).

  • Milk/Dairy = 1 cup skim, or 3-4 oz. yogurt, 1 oz. cheese

Surprised? Portions really aren't as big as what we think. Certainly not what's packaged or served to us in a restaurant.

Oh yeah, ketchup? Does not count as a vegetable. Sorry, but no way, unless you eat half a cup of ketchup. Fries count as a starchy vegetable, not a vegetable. Ready for this? You only get 10-15 fries per serving. That's like the corner of the supersize box, you know? Or maybe just licking the grease off the bottom of the carton even. Which is just plain disgusting. Fast food in general is pretty disgusting.
I make my own baked sweet potato fries instead.

That serving of protein? It's less than the size of a "quarter-pounder." Child-size servings are even smaller. Around our house, as a family of three, we eat about 3 lbs. or less of meats per week. This means we eat at least two meals per week with a non-meat protein. I've also made it a habit to source those meats (and eggs and milk) we do eat direct from farmers that I know personally. It's reassuring to know the meat is safe and healthier for us and for the environment.

I pack our lunches every day to save money and to make sure we are all eating healthy foods. It takes effort to do all your own cooking, but after all the meat recalls and issues, I would not have it any other way.

As far as number of servings of each food type to eat daily, the food guide pyramid is a good resource — if you can decipher the new food pyramid diagram, that is.
Luckily, they have a handy calculator on the site. It also has tracking tools and a worksheet if you are more interested.

It's not a bad idea to check these guidelines out since this is the kind of plan that school lunches will be based on
if they ever update the guidelines from the 70s. These are basic, healthy eating guidelines. It is not a diet. I hate diets. Almost as much as I hate sit ups.

Because I also hate to count servings (and don't have time), I will just stick to my plate, eat a lot of different colors of fruits and veggies, and take the stairs. And, yeah, once in a while, I'm still going to eat ice cream and chocolate. Because I am a realist, and I really love ice cream almost as much as I hate sit ups.