So you’ve probably heard how we’re transitioning from the food pyramid to the “MyPlate”. I think it’s fine. I just think it falls a little short. I don’t think you have to have a piece of fruit at every meal to be healthy. And as someone with a tight financial situation, I also know that having a piece of fruit at every meal can be a tall order. Not to mention, I’ve always heard one should separate fruit from meals since it digests so quickly and can cause indigestion. Supposedly it’s better alone as a snack or at the very least not paired with a side of meat or poultry. Maybe that’s just an old myth. Anyway, for children, these recommendations work great. As a child reaches adulthood and is more in tune with their body, they can then tweak their diet.
I also think that these recommendations should come with a message along the lines of, “Feel free to play around with your “plate” so to ensure what you eat makes you feel good after eating it”. I think they don’t think we’re as smart as we are and want to oversimplify things. What’s wrong with telling people to work within the recommendations to find what works best for them? Maybe people would abuse it and find that as an excuse to eat ice cream all day because, “hey, you said I could have dairy at every meal and it makes me feel good”.
According to these recommendations, I could for example, serve my husband some apple wedges, a few ounces of chicken breast, a mound of mashed potatoes and green beans, and a whole grain roll of bread. He can wash it down with a glass of milk. And with this meal he is on his way to maintaining good health.
Not quite, says I. I’ve used my husband as a guinea pig of sorts and over the years we’ve both learned that his energy levels, overall feeling of wellbeing, level of appetite, and weight are all negatively affected by meals such as the one above. How come?
We don’t all have the same nutritional requirements. I think Alex is kind of unique in the way that he strictly avoids foods that don’t give him energy. Many of us, myself included, tend to eat what we like whether it leaves us feeling energized or lethargic afterwards. Years ago, on a date with Alex, I ate a hamburger and afterwards proclaimed that it left me feeling really “blah” and said I regretted eating it. He asked a simple question that was to me, a revelation: “If it doesn’t make you feel good, why eat it?”
“Well…because…well…I like it, I mean, I like the way it tastes…” He smiled and said, “Ok”. That night I thought, “Ugh! This is such a simple concept, why didn’t I think about it before?” From that day on I had more motivation to eat what made me feel good and also eat what I liked. It took experimentation but it paid off. The version of myplate that I’d have is, for example, sweet potato, a green salad, chicken breast, and an hour or two later I’d snack on some fruit. And I feel fine. Alex could have some organic beef, beans, and leafy greens and he is fueled for hours at which point he does rather well snacking on nuts. (We get lots of calcium through many dark green vegetables so dairy is not necessary although Alex does drink whole milk). It’s a pain eating so differently from one another but we don’t know any other way to do it. If he has my chicken and sweet potato, even in massive quantities, he is still hungry just one hour later. And honestly, feeding him a big meal four or five times a day turns out too expensive unless he eats for energy. And eating for energy has nothing to do with sugar or caffeine.
So we customize our eating according to the healthy eating guidelines out there. You can do it, too. The way I’ve found is most helpful is to start a food journal where you document what you eat and how you feel afterwards and also to get blood tests done. Then experiment with eating what tastes good and gives you energy and fills you up (within these healthy guidelines). Have blood work done in 3 months when you follow up with your doc and let him/her know what you’re up to and see if anything changed. When you eat right for your unique nutritional needs, your sense of wellbeing, your mood, and your blood work confirms it. And if blood tests come back improved, I doubt your doctor will have a problem with your diet plan. Just be sure to have those tests routinely done, say once a year.
All the above is just my opinion. If you’re so inclined I’d suggest going to a dietician and enlisting their help in customizing your eating plan to fit your needs and to ensure you are getting adequate nutrition.
Good eating to ya!