2,700 calories/day : 1,996 lbs/year

According to an infographic posted on The Atlantic and compiled by Sarah Kliff (with data from the FDA, USDA, CDC, etc), the average American consumes 1,996.3 lbs of food (and food-like substances) a year. A small note on the graphic (full size here) points out that the numbers crunched include “food bought/served but not eaten (leftovers),” which briefly alleviates the shame felt learning that the average American consumes 29 lbs of french fries and 23 lbs of pizza per year… until you remember that you’ve never let those last few fries go to waste. Ugh. 

Standard American Diet

Grains provided nearly a quarter of daily calories to the average American in 2009 – which is more than any other food group (fruits, veggies, meats, eggs, nuts, etc). Such a percentage sounds okay at first but upon closer inspection you will see that the next largest pieces of the pie are added fats, oils, dairy fats and caloric sweeteners rather than the real foods. Ugh.

The New Food Plate

The USDA’s answer to the “complicated” Food Pyramid: a simple plate, place mat, drink and fork. Here’s what people are saying:

“This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating. We’re all bombarded with so many dietary messages that it’s hard to find time to sort through all this information, but we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. If the filled plate looks like the symbol, with lots of fruits and vegetables, it’s as simple as that.” – Michelle Obama

“It’s better than the pyramid, but that’s not saying a lot.” – Marion Nestle

“It’s such a recognizable image. Everybody has seen a plate, used a plate. It’s much easier to visualize when it’s something we use on a daily basis. It’s about choosing the right things, not so much about avoiding.” – Toby Smithson, R.D., a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association

“The new ‘food icon’ was designed to help slim Americans’ expanding girths: Two-thirds of American adults and one-third of children are overweight or obese. The costs associated with obesity are enormous.” – Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary

“It’s brilliant in its simplicity. It’s something the average American can look at and get a visual feel for how they can fill up a plate at a meal.” – Robb MacKie, Head of the American Bakers Association

“The plate image does not suggest portion sizes, only the ratios in which foods should be eaten.” – Various Nutritionists

We here at Just Saying are curious to see how the meat industry will react to being relegated to the purple protein portion of the plate – that does not appear to require a knife or spoon. As always, reader thoughts and comments are welcome.

***UPDATE***

Stephen Colbert weighs in: “A plate? For Food? What’s the connection? Americans don’t use plates anymore. Our food comes from cases, bags, cans, tubes, and envelopes made of themselves.” Watch the entire Colbert clip here.

Pyramid to Plate

For decades, U.S. school teachers have explained proper nutrition by way of the handy dandy food pyramid we all know and most of us have come to ignore. A diet built on grains is fit for a farmer, but for an unfortunate majority of Americans the definition of grains has been obfuscated by french fries and pizza and adding cheese to anything suffices as a dairy serving. Many popular diet programs seemed to be turning the pyramid upside-down and sideways and altering the agreed-upon definition of a healthy diet to suit their marketing so in 2005, the U.S.D.A released a new and improved pyramid emphasizing exercise as an important component – but it was widely regarded as confusing.

Last summer, the brainstorm for a new logo began. In January the government released new dietary guidelines and now, about $2 million bucks later, they are gearing up to release the new and improved pyramid, now in circular form and branded as the Food Plate.

From what I understand, the pie chart plate image will be released sometime next week. My guess is that it will be nothing short of obvious but perhaps the redesign will stick in our minds when we look down at our dinner plates.

Big Day for Big Mac Fans

In case you have been wondering about the health and well-being of Wisconsin’s own Don Gorske, the featured Big Mac fan in the famed documentary Supersize Me, he is alive and (surprisingly) well and reportedly just sunk his teeth into his 25,000th burger. He accomplished this extraordinary feat over the past 39 years, consumed 12,250,000 Big Mac calories in the process, refers to himself as “healthy as a horse,” and has cut back from nine per day to a mere one or two.

Michael Pollan to Compile Another ‘Food Rules’ Book

This time, with more rules and illustrations! Yay! Check out the open call (full text below) for new rules for the 2nd Edition of ‘Food Rules’ that Michael Pollan wrote for Grist.org (and possibly other publications/sites):

Last year I published Food Rules, a short book offering 64 rules for eating well. Food Rules struck a chord with many people, who found that it helped them navigate what has become a treacherous food environment, whether in the supermarket or restaurant. Many of the rules were submitted by readers, and since publication I have received a number of excellent new ones. So I’ve decided to publish an expanded edition, with additional rules and also illustrations, which the painter Maira Kalman has agreed to create. The premise of Food Rules is that culture has much to teach us about how to choose, prepare, and eat food and that this wisdom is worth collecting and preserving before it disappears.

In recent years, we’ve deferred to the voices of science and industry when it comes to eating, yet often their advice has served us poorly, or has merely confirmed the wisdom of our grandmothers after the fact. “Eat your colors,” an Australian reader’s grandmother used to tell her; now we hear the same advice from nutritionists, citing the value of including in the diet as many different phytochemicals as possible.I’ve also found that many ethnic traditions have their own memorable expressions for what amounts to the same recommendation.

Many cultures, for examples, have grappled with the problem of food abundance and come up with different ways of proposing we stop eating before we’re completely full: the Japanese say “hara hachi bu” (“Eat until you are 4/5 full”); Germans advise eaters to “tie off the sack before it’s full.” And the prophet Mohammed recommended that a full belly should contain one-third food, one-third drink, and one-third air. My own Russian-Jewish grandfather used to say at the end of every meal, “I always like to leave the table a little bit hungry.” Many rules reach across cultures and also time, but some of the ones readers have submitted are specifically about navigating the modern food landscape: “It’s not food if it comes to you through the window of a car.” “Don’t eat at any restaurant of which there is more than just one.” “A snack is not the same thing as treat.” “If a bug won’t eat it, why would you?” and so on.

Will you send me a food rule you have found memorable and useful? Perhaps one passed down by your parents or grandparents? Or something you’ve come up with to tell your children — or your self.

Please send your suggestions to pollan.foodrules@gmail.com. Thanks in advance for your attention and help.

As you all know, ‘Food Rules’ is very close to this blogger’s heart because she contributed rule number 21 to the first edition. I hope that you all will join me in contributing ideas for the next edition. I will include the best ones in the next edition of Food Rules, which will be published next fall and will be pleased to acknowledge your contribution if you so wish.

2010 CalorieLab, Inc Obesity Stats

For the fifth year in a row, Mississippi has been ranked above all others in terms of obesity rates. What’s more alarming, at least to me, is to see a graphic representation of the “one in four American adults are obese” statistic. Read a thorough analysis of CalorieLab’s findings here. Also, kudos to Colorado, where only one in five people are obese therefore making them the “thinnest state.”

Great News on the Healthy Happy Meal Crusade

I know, I know…. having “healthy” and “Happy Meal” in the same title is oxymoronic. Just keep reading…

San Francisco lawmakers approved legislation yesterday limiting fast food chains’ abilities to include toys in kids meals with excessive calories, sodium and fat. The law also requires that a serving of fruit or vegetables be included with each meal. So if all goes according to plan, these corporations will no longer be able to reward children for eating convenient, unhealthy junk.

Despite McDonald’s Corporate representatives’ claims that such a law would “take the joy out of the Happy Meal,” the measure drew enough support to overcome an expected veto and I’m sure lots of us hope to see similar laws popping up (faster than McDonald’s) nationwide.