For a further detailed description, you can check out the USDA's breakdown of the plate here. Now it's time to share your thoughts on the plate. Do you think it will really make a difference?
On Thursday, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a big unveiling. It's swapping out the 4-year-old Food Pyramid (shown here) with a new icon that is said to offer simple, easy-to-understand cues to prompt healthy choices. The new logo will be a circular plate that consists of four colored sections for fruits, vegetables, grains and protein. It will also include a smaller plate for dairy, suggesting a glass of low-fat milk or perhaps a yogurt cup. Based on the description, it sounds like we'll be able to model our own dining plates after the USDA's visual guide. The White House is said to have an integral role in the makeover, coordinating the new USDA/HHS dietary guidelines with the First Lady's Let's Move Initiative.
To see what some of the new dietary recommendations are, just read more.
- The history of bacon in civilization, illustrated.
- The history of bacon in civilization, illustrated. — Voracious
- New editor Adam Rapoport has big Bon Appétit changes in store. — Eater
- All about Foodily, an ad-free recipe search engine. — Slashfood
- 10 lucky foods to devour on Chinese New Year. — Chow
- Yes, you can: buy great cheese on a budget. — Serious Eats
- New York's famed Le Cirque is expanding to India. — Grub Street NY
- The dish that celebrates Chinese New Year and the Super Bowl at the same time. — Salon
- A primer on the USDA's new dietary guidelines. — The Atlantic
- Muskrat, otter, beaver, oh my! Inside a woodland creatures dinner. — New York Times
The new dietary guidelines proposed by the Department of Agriculture seem a lot like Michael Pollan's mantra: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." The proposed guidelines — which are updated every five years — seem to take aim at America's obesity crisis. Current figures indicate that one-third of all Americans are obese, with even more individuals being considered overweight.
The proposed guidelines emphasize the importance of a healthy diet, suggesting a reduction of sodium intake from 2,300 milligrams to 1,500 milligrams per day and also an increase in the amount of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, nuts, and legumes we eat. A small amount of lean meats, poultry, and eggs are recommended, as well as seafood and low-fat dairy. What's not recommended are sugary sodas and saturated fats — both of these items were specifically called out as big no-nos on the list. And while the recommendations may not sound too different than what's been put forth in the past, the urgency to get all of America on board is.
But changing the guidelines and getting people to follow them are two different things. The hope is that after a review process, these guidelines will go into effect and start influencing government school lunch programs, food labeling and manufacturing, and other public food programs like Meals on Wheels. Will these new guidelines influence you, or are you already eating this way?
Sure, macarons, chicharrones, and street food are big right now, but what's been trending over the past 100 years? To answer that question, the USDA has just published a report on food trends that have occurred over the last century.
The USDA tracked 100 years' worth of food products based on information about imports, exports, and production and inventory levels. Changes include a shift from whole to lowfat milk over the past 30 years, and the decline of milk availability due to competition from sodas, juices, and water.
During the same time, chicken availability skyrocketed, and so did grain-based products like cereal and baked goods. While the produce aisle became more plentiful thanks to imports, Americans also made the switch from shell to processed eggs, and turned to other heavily processed fruits, sauces, soups, drinks, and cereal products.
Although little of this information surprises me, I hadn't given much thought to how many choices Americans have now — kiwi from New Zealand, brie from France, shrimp from Thailand — that weren't available before. What trends do you think have been big over the past century?
Did you know that no government agency regulates use of the term "organic" when it comes to makeup and skin care? Yup, it's true. Although the USDA enforces a strict standard when it comes to food labeled as organic, the same isn't true for makeup and skin care, which are notoriously poorly regulated.
So what does this mean for you? Well, mostly that if you pick up a product that says it's organic, that label means absolutely nothing. There's no regulatory process, so bald-faced lies from manufacturers are all over the place. The item could have no organic, or even "natural," ingredients in it.
There's actually only one way to tell if your product is organic. There's a completely voluntary USDA organic regulation for skin care, called the USDA NOP. Products that are actually organic and pass the standard will have this USDA Organic seal on them clearly displayed, so there's no mistaking them. Otherwise, the great majority of the "natural" or "organic" items you may be picking up didn't pass USDA organic standards, may well be making a false claim, and could actually be totally synthetic. Until the FDA or USDA starts regulating these claims and ingredients the same way they do food and medicine, it's definitely buyer beware. So read the ingredients and remember that if there's no USDA seal, it's not actually organic.
I was alarmed to read the results of a Consumer Reports study that said two-thirds of store-bought chickens were contaminated with harmful bacteria. The study tested 382 birds from 100 stores from 22 states around the country. Tyson and Foster Farms chickens scored the poorest — salmonella was found in 80 percent of those samples, while air-chilled chickens fared the best, with only 40 percent carrying bacteria.
The message is crystal clear: when it comes to food safety, a lot is left in the hands of the consumer. One of the biggest opportunities to cut down on contamination happens once the meat leaves the grocery store. If this new study worries you, always cook your poultry to 165°F to kill any bacteria that may be present.
Do you know how to properly handle your meat once you get it home? Take my quiz to find out . . .Take the Quiz
A colossal food fight is one way to use up the season's supply of subpar produce. But scientists have discovered another: convert rejected fruits into biofuel. The study, conducted by USDA researchers and published in the journal Biotechnology For Biofuels, found that the 360,000 tons of fruit rejected by US retailers each year could be converted into roughly two million gallons of biofuel.
Research team leader Wayne Fish said that 50 percent of the fruit, which is typically left in the fields and not sold due to cosmetic imperfections, is fermentable into ethanol, which can be used as fuel, “We’ve shown that the juice of these melons is a source of readily fermentable sugars, representing a heretofore untapped feedstock for ethanol biofuel production." I'd never considered that fruit could be a viable source of renewable energy — but I find it refreshing (although perhaps not as refreshing as, say, an In-Sandíary).
Are you surprised to hear that watermelon could have potential past the typical Summer barbecue?
If you've got a sweet tooth, you may be forced to reckon with a bitter truth. In a letter sent to US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, several of the country's largest food companies, including General Mills, Kraft, Hershey, and Mars, said the United States could "virtually run out of sugar" if the government doesn't let up on sugar import limits.
To keep prices within reason for domestic sugar farmers, the government only allows unlimited sugar imports from the Mexican market without paying tariffs. Global shortages of the commodity have led to a skyrocket in price, culminating in a 28-year high this week.
Sugar purchased from other countries, such as Brazil, is limited by a quota. If those restrictions aren't eased, food manufacturers say they'd be forced to hike prices, slash jobs — and run out of sugar to make items such as cereal, cookies, and chocolate. However, the USDA appears to be taking this plea with a grain of sugar, claiming early this week that domestic supplies were increasing.
With opposing interests, it's hard to know what to think. Who do you believe — and would America be better off with less sugar?