Behold. Our USDA Food Pyramid.
Let’s see what we’ve got here.
Grains- macaroni noodles (processed). A flour tortilla (processed). Triscuits or “baked wheat” crackers (processed). Some other yellow, butter looking cracker (processed). Some pieces of bread (processed). A bowl of Cheerios-looking cereal (processed). I see two “whole grains” represented in this picture, meaning whole grains that haven’t been ripped, jipped and stripped of all things that make them nutritious and “whole”. Do you see them? See end notes.
Vegetables and fruits- do you see anything wrong with this picture? This section should be at the base and make up the most of the pyramid. When raw (or haven’t been heated past 108 degrees, depending on who you ask), these foods contain the enzymes, fiber, phytonutrients, and all the vitamins and minerals our bodies need and crave. They speak a language that the human body knows exactly how to translate, and translate well. Our bodies were designed to absorb and utilize plant-based foods, know exactly what to do with them andknow exactly how to use them.
Fats- although a “Fats” tab isn’t mentioned on this pyramid, there a “color smear” for it wedged in between the “Fruits” and “Milk” tabs. The right kind of fat definitely has its place. Think monounsaturated (think: virgin and extra virgin olive oil, canola, sunflower, peanut and sesame oil, olives, avocado, nuts and seeds), polyunsaturated fat (safflower, pumpkin seed and flax oil, soymilk, tofu, nuts and seeds), Omega 3 (wild caught, fatty cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel and herring, ground flaxseed, flax oil, walnuts) and Omega 6 fatty acids (seeds, nuts and their oils). Do you know what kinds of fat to avoid? See end notes below.
Onto the more touchy “must-have” that the Food Pyramid promotes:
Milk- ah, the dairy industry. A billion dollar industry that’s managed to position itself on our food pyramid as a “must-have”. Truth is, it’s not. The ads generated by this industry have convinced the public that milk is an “essential” in diets, especially our children’s diets. The only milk we should be drinking is our mother’s milk, and even THAT’S been replaced by canned, lab concoctions as alternatives. We are the ONLY mammals on the face of the planet that consume another mammal’s milk for kicks. Humans wean off of mother’s milk when their bodies are naturally ready to do so. Mother’s milk naturally provides all the essentials: fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins, and offers the perfect balance for a growing baby. Human breast milk is not as rich in protein as cow’s milk because a cow’s milk is meant for sweet suckling cow babies who need triple the protein for growth and development. Unless you’re a cow (which will weigh anywhere from 400 – 1600 lbs), you don’t need to be drinkin’ da’ juice.
Since the dairy industry has become so huge and demand so high, so has the mistreatment of the poor animals that supply us with this false necessity. They’re pumped FULL of hormones to keep the cows preggers in order to produce more milk. 365 days a year. Their nipples hooked up to machines that suck their poor utters until their sore. Not only do our milk and other dairy products contain all these hormones pumped into the cow’s body, but also the pus from her poor, sore utters from being sucked on endlessly by machines and what-have-you, and the estrogen she naturally produces as a result of her body thinking she’s constantly preggers. Mmmm. Got milk?
Now, I love me some cheese. I’ll be the first to admit it. BUT. I also make sure that if I do eat it, it’s the GOOD STUFF. Clean. Hormone free. Made from happy cows that are not stuck in a stall and hooked up to a bunch of contraptions forced to be milk-makin’ machines. Cows that are able to roam around, eat a natural grass diet and behave like normal, happy cows. I also love me some goat and non-dairy nut cheeses (you can find some REALLY great nut cheeses. Check out the awesome cheeses made by Dr. Cow at: www.dr-cow.com AND they deliver! Schaaaaaaa-wing).
***Great alternatives to milk are: Almond milk. Soy milk. Coconut milk. I, personally, love Almond Milk. Whole Foods carries a really good organic brand for a great price, AND it’s super-easy to make on your own!***
Meat- meat is not supposed to be a staple or a mainstay in the human diet. The meat industry has spent billions of dollars convincing us that we need it for meet our protein needs, among other things. Sure, we’ve subsisted on variations of meat for thousands of years, BUT there is a vast difference between the meat our ancestors ate way-back-when and the meat we eat today.
Way-back-when meat was wild caught. It came from animals that lived in their normal, wild habitats who survived diets natural to them and that they foraged for. The quality and nutritional content of this type of meat differs GREATLY in comparison to the type of meat we eat today.
Todays’ meat comes from some of the most abused animals on the planet. These folks are in to “meat farming” for the money and need to meet the mass demands of people who eat without thinking. These animals are kicked, beaten, shot, crushed between metal slabs, pumped full of hormones and steroids, left in cages where there is no room to even turn their heads, laying or standing in their own defecation… the horror stories go on and on and on.
A lot of people assume that because I’m a health freak, I don’t eat meat or animal products. I do eat meat, though not often, and some animal products, but I pay attention to where the meat came from. I am very, very careful in who I support with my dollar which, in turn, says “yes, I support your practices”.
If you do eat meat, here are a few things to consider before adding to the supply and demand of this ungodly, money-driven, unethical and immoral business (yes, it’s a business):
- the animal was treated humanely while it was alive,
- it ate a natural, grass-fed diet (if beef; not pumped of corn and other foods to help fatten it up that are not part of its natural diet),
- it was able to roam free and exercise,
- it got to enjoy fresh air and sunshine,
- it was able to engage in and live exhibiting its natural behaviors,
- it was not injected with steroids , hormones or antibiotics to fatten up and grow more quickly than nature intended.
If I ask you to do anything, it’s not to support factory farming. Every time you buy a steak from some random steakhouse. A quick burger. A bucket of chicken. A sammie from the convenience store with some animal product on it. A package of chicken breasts from the local grocery store. You’re saying “yes” to factory farming. When you buy without thought, you’re supporting the ongoing abuse, neglect, disregard and terror that goes on. Saying “yes, I want this in my system” to the hormones, steroids, antibiotics, etc. farmers use to inject their animals with. You better believe it ends up inside you, too.
Food places make a huge profit from serving up factory farm meat because it’s cheaper for them to acquire, sell and make money from.
How will you know if the meat’s been properly cared for? Had a grass-fed diet? Was not injected with steroids, hormones or antibiotics? Was treated humanely while alive? Pride for the right way of doing things will make itself known on a restaurant’s menu description, a label, packaging, etc. Ask. Get informed.
True, there is nothing humane about killing and taking a life. The meat we eat is essentially carcass. But if you must have your meat, it pays to know that there’s a vast difference in the quality of meat you’re eating when its’ raised, handled and given to you the right way.
Polyface Farms in the beautiful hills of Virginia is a great example of what I am talking about: (www.polyfacefarms.com).
It’s totally disgusting and absolutely infuriating the treatment that’s permitted and that these poor animals endure. Not convinced? Watch the incredible DVD documentary “Food Inc”. You will be.
Can’t bring yourself to watch it? It’s because there’s already something inside of you that agrees with the fact that this operation is wrong. Remember- you have a choice in this.
Educate yourself. Google how factory farms are hurting the whole frickin’ planet. Wanna’ make a global impact, people? Change the way you eat. It really is that simple.
“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” – Sir Paul McCartney
Beans- beans and legumes. Want your protein? Get it here. Paired with whole grains, beans and legumes provide all the essential amino acids that meat would. They’re a great source of fiber AND protein, as well as other invaluable nutrients.
Answers from above:
Grains: What 2 whole grains got the HC checkmark? Popcorn (great choice if you use a hot air popper or pop via stovetop) and Oatmeal (not instant, not the flavored kind…. Get the organic steel-cut oats. They boast healthier bennies than their rolled counterparts).
Vegetables and fruit: The only thing wrong with this section is the glass of orange juice (*unless it was freshly juiced at home and not from a container*) and the can of peaches. Why not just eat a whole peach that hasn’t been handled at all and soaked in syrup or “fruit juice concentrate”?!
Fats: Did you guess what fats to avoid? Saturated and Trans fats. You can find these fats in: high fat animal products, skin-on chicken, ice cream, palm and coconut oil, lard, commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough (except for the homemade daily, fresh sourdough dough only at Pizzeria Orso in Falls Church, VA. Shameless plug for my fiancée who is the Chef there, yes, but Orso is my personal go-to for awesome pizza and outstanding, locally-sourced food and bevies), snack foods, margarine, vegetable shortening, fried foods, and candy bars. How many of those do you or members of your family eat on a daily basis?
Milk and Meat: think I’ve said enough.
Beans: eat more of.
*Stay tuned for Part II of this topic. The link between the USDA Food Pyramid and the Food Industry.*
Stay Healthy, My Friends…