Parents rarely fail to notice that their child is gaining too much weight; no parent is ever happy when it does happen. Identifying the problem is just the beginning, though, because it can be difficult to turn things around and help the child return to a healthier height/weight proportion.
In the last decade, the problem of obesity in our society has spread from adults to even very young children and has become a national epidemic. Doctors, nutritionists, and others involved in health care, in concert with government agencies, have constructed new and hopefully more effective visual aids and guidelines. In the early 1970s Sweden began using a food ‘pyramid’ to help people learn healthier eating habits. Other nations followed, including the United States. As new nutritional information became known, the pyramid was modified to reflect that data. With obesity at an all time high and health care costs keeping pace—new aids and new tactics have been developed.
Gone completely is the ‘pyramid’ analogy. It has been replaced with the simple, understandable image of a plate filled with the correct ratios of different food groups. Correct ratios? Who decides what is correct and how did they arrive at those figures? It turns out that food science is just that, a real science with hardcore data. There is data that quantifies optimum nutrition for human beings of all ages, calculates healthy height/weight ratios, and establishes how much we should consume from the different food groups.
So how does this image of a plate filled with four food groups help the average person with meal preparation? Well look: On the plate we see a slightly larger portion of vegetables and whole grains, followed by equal amounts of proteins and fruit. To the side, there is a small portion of dairy. One has only to glance at that picture to get the idea of how a dinner plate ought to be loaded, as well as one for lunch and breakfast.
To see so many overweight people, you would think that we are over-nourished, but it is possible to be overweight and undernourished in essential proteins, vitamins and minerals. And in spite of having access to so much healthy food, our nation as a whole is becoming less healthy. Young people are developing not only type II Diabetes, but heart and lung disease. Worst of all, new research is beginning to show a relationship between overweight and cancer.
While your family is still young is the perfect time to make changes in your family’s eating habits. Check out the United States Department of Agriculture website: choosemyplate.gov.
The goal of the choosemyplate.gov program is:
- to help people make healthier selections
- to reduce portion size
- to eat the food groups in proper ratios
- to eat a wider variety of foods
- and, of course, exercise more
The USDA website has so much usable, and excuse the pun, digestible information that it would be a shame not to make use of it.