Traditional Food Pyramid Problems

If you eat based on the USDA Food Pyramid, you may have a weight problem. More problematic with the USDA Food Pyramid is you may have other health problems like Type II diabetes, increased risk of heart disease and/or high cholesterol. Here is why this food pyramid is not recommended for optimal health.

basic-pyramidAt the top they ask you to limit fats but not all fats are bad. In fact, many plant based fats benefit the heart such as fats found in nuts, olive oils and coconut oils. They suggest that you need your protein from meat, this is also not true. Unfortunately, if you get your protein from red meat you also take in high levels of cholesterols and saturated fats which are not heart healthy. There is no mention of beans or nuts, which are great sources of protein and heart healthy as well. They state that dairy is necessary which is also not true. They believed this was necessary based on its source of calcium for strong bones. You do need calcium in your diet, but dairy is not the best source of calcium. You can get plenty of calcium from spinach, broccoli, oranges, kale, almonds, sesame seeds and figs. Most horrifying for me is they only recommend 2-3 servings of vegetables and fruit verses starchy carbs at 6-11 servings per day. You cannot take in 6-11 servings of pasta, bread and potatoes and expect to maintain a healthy weight. Especially since those items are usually topped with sugar and/or saturated fat food like pasta sauces or butter. Not to mention these simple sugars break down in the body quicker resulting a higher glycemic value and creating havoc with insulin levels.

Ironically the foods protected by the government are simple carbs (grains & sugars), dairy and red meat. The government supplements many crops such as corn, wheat, soy & dairy to the tune of about $20 billion a year (source: USDA). They are not the healthiest choices in any diet yet this is why chips, bread, red meat, milk and sugar are so cheap to consume. It is also why those items are often more affordable than eating plant based. Vegetables, nuts and beans are not supplemented by the government so you pay real value.

In the old days, way back when we used animals for transportation, the rich were fat and the poor were thin. In today’s society where vegetables are costlier than bread and bologna we see the rich are thin while the poor are suffering with obesity and the negative health effects of obesity. Individuals and families who can afford to make these changes are seeing increased health and lower weight but these changes are costly. Healthy changes are financially challenging for low income populations. db3eb5613fbedcf90f766db99367f619

There have been attempts to implement new pyramids by Harvard and other nutrition based organizations but the standards of the old pyramid are ingrained in everyone’s understandings and beliefs about what foods are good and what to avoid. Please consider the new pyramids as a starting point to make necessary changes to your overall health and maintaining a healthy weight. Long term health is a worthwhile goal.


Everyone has their ‘thing’

Everyone has their thing, that one thing they believe is critical to reaching their health goals. Some people are serious calorie counters, some are all about the cheats, while others are about how much cardio they get. Oddly, my thing is food quality. I worry about chemicals added to foods, used in processing and sprayed during growth. I get upset when the grocery store has no organic apples or oranges and condemn them as bad (sorry Publix, you are equal to Winn Dixie in my book. Shame on you). I read books like the China Study and Wheat Belly and watch documentaries like Fed Up and Hungry for Change and gladly walk away from entire food groups. Some call this extreme but honestly, I think I need to be my own champion for my health. The food industry does not provide me with clean foods so I need to be my own guardian angel in this area since it is so important to me.

It may sound extreme, but this is my ultimate health goal. I want to be healthy, truly healthy for as long as possible. I am not looking to weigh a certain amount or have ripped abs. I want to be drug free with healthy organs, bones, joints for as long as possible. I do not want to be on cholesterol medication, blood pressure medication or insulin for any level of Type II Diabetes. I want to be healthy because I made healthy choices not on any drug that supposedly will make me healthy. You trade one symptom for another in that game and I refuse to play that game. According to a number of reporting agencies, 70% of all adults are on one or more prescribed medications. That average cost is $1000 per year. So 7 out of 10 people spend approximately $12,000 on medications per year. That is insane to me! And what is more insane is often these health problems can be completely avoided by making and maintaining healthy lifestyle choices.

So, yes, I fully believe in organics and natural whole foods as my path to health. I do not eat meat and extremely limited on fish I will consume. I do not drink milk, eat bread or processed foods. I especially stay away from sugar. I prefer hard beans that you have to soak overnight and cook for hours in the crockpot over canned. Seeds and nuts in their raw form vs processed for easy cooking are what I choose over ‘quick’ or canned. I will not eat fast food and get really picky about what restaurants I will visit. I drink black organic coffee with cinnamon and buy natural spices. It’s not easy but it’s a small price to pay for true health. I am not a purist, but I make strong efforts to be clean 80-90% of the time.

Don’t worry I still care about fitness and maintaining healthy weight but I believe that clean eating and regular exercise will take care of that. So although I don’t count calories, I do count chemicals…. it’s my thing. there-are-too-many-people-counting-calories1

Cold Weather Fun

Now that the weather has turned cold, staying inside sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately sitting on the couch and binge watching Netflix is not the healthiest choice. My husband and I started using Sunday to explore healthy new recipes for our food prep day. We found a couple great cookbooks that we are loving. We both eat plant based diets and like most people we eat the same meals over and over. The idea is to pull out the cookbooks, pick a couple recipes each and open our options. We make our grocery list, hit the store and prep our meals. There have been some hits and sadly some misses, but we are enjoying learning what other great food items we now love.

If you are into plant based living the cookbooks we love are Thug Kitchen, Eating the Alkaline Way and Meatless. I also have a couple Paleo cookbooks that we pull meatless recipes from as well. The internet is also a great place for recipes and we have tried and loved many from

It’s a great way to hang out and chat, taste new food options and our week is always set up for success.

 Thug Kitchen Eating the alkaline way mealtess


A Tough Question

As a trainer, a potential client who had about 100 or more pounds to lose, asked me a really tough question. “Have you ever worked with someone with my weight loss goals and had success?”

The question is yes (but only to a degree) but otherwise no. There is so much that goes into large weight loss goals that a trainer alone cannot guarantee success. The physical limitations, the problems, habits and issues that contributed to the original weight gain, attitude toward food, resistance to change, long held beliefs, culturally based habits…the list goes on. Weight loss is 80% diet and only 20% exercise. You can’t just exercise your way into weight loss, no matter what the commercials say. You have to change your diet. You have to change how and why you eat and it needs to be permanent. Or as we like to say in the fitness industry ‘you need to make a lifestyle change’.junk-food-and-healthy-eating-shutterstock_800

Well, this is not an easy task. In fact, it’s probably the hardest task for any one professional to assist with and best suited for a team of professionals in addition to your own personal support systems. Food is used as a social card, its therapy, a much deserved reward, even punishment but rarely nourishment. And yet that is what food is: nourishment. When food is what makes you happy in life and all about the pure enjoyment you also have to accept flip side which are flavors and ingredients detrimental to weight loss. When a big greasy burger with cheese and mayo spread between two toasty buns and a side of crispy salty fries dipped in sugar laced ketchup is what you eat because its tasty and you deserve the grand prize of flavor, you also must suffer the consequences. Because you missed the point of food and you are now over-indulged. So the real prize is weight gain, lack of nutrients and other possible health concerns (cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure). You factor in that a sodium and sugar laced diet will make any vegetable sound bland and boring. Eating a salad would be miserable and possibly tasteless for that person. It’s a big challenge for any trainer and weight loss client.

So if you have a large weight loss goal can you lose weight? YES. But please really consider your relationship with food and how you need to recreate what that relationship is. You can reinvent your food thinking, but don’t do it alone. You will need a team. Get your friends and family on board, your trainer or workout buddy, co-workers, etc. They do not have to make the same changes but they absolutely must honor yours. Explain to them where you struggle, what exactly they can do to support you and what is dangerous behavior.

Seek books and magazines that support healthy food choices. Follow blogs or cooking sites for recipes and ideas. Take a healthy cooking class to get ideas and learn how to cook if needed. You need to actively seek ways to incorporate healthy food choices into your life and daily meal planning. It’s a lifestyle change so it’s not going to happen overnight but you need to actively pursue behavior and options that support the change.

love-food-picFor those bad habits that you know are not helpful, start replacing them with healthy options. They do not have to be similar. So if you are watching tv and often want a snack after all those food commercials consider a couple other options. Commercials are muted and you are doing a chore or even an exercise move. Or you get a glass of water whenever you walk into kitchen ‘seeking a snack’. Only you will know what works for you. But you have to start addressing the behaviors that do not support your goal. Don’t focus on what you are taking away but what you are adding.

This is small step in a line of many steps needed. But this is a good start. When you make good healthy choices you naturally want to make more. Best of luck, it’s worth it.