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    If you don’t have room for your broccoli….

    So you know how they were talking about redoing the food pyramid a few months ago? Apparently, they were not just fooling around. I had to read the opening of this CNN.com article five or so times before I was sure I was really seeing what I was seeing:

    A federal dietary advisory panel is considering whether its revision of nutrition guidelines should let some people treat themselves to guilt-free desserts.

    Such treats would be bonuses for healthful living, under proposals being considered by the advisory panel that’s drafting an update of the nutritional guidance.

    The experts are looking at what are called “discretionary calories.” Those could be allowed for people who get nutritious meals while staying below the calories they need to burn for energy.

    The panel is looking at ways to write discretionary calories into the recommendations that the government is to issue early next year, in tandem with an update of the food guide pyramid.

    Discretionary calories are what’s left when the calories needed to meet all of a person’s nutrient needs are subtracted from the greater number of calories needed to meet energy needs.

    To gain discretionary calories, people would eat a balanced diet of foods that are high in nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, but not high in calories. This could include vegetables and fruits, for instance, as well as protein from meat and carbohydrates from bread. But consumers would have to eat in moderation, so they get all their nutrients while staying below their energy ceiling.

    The payoff: They could pick up the extra calories for energy without having to worry about nutrition. And this allows a variety of high-calorie fun foods. Ice cream would be one possibility, said committee member Joanne Lupton, a nutrition professor at Texas A&M University.

    I’ve sliced out a bunch of paragraphs in a row because it was the overall effect that bothered me. Unless there’s something here I didn’t get, the content of all this is: (1) Dessert contains sugars that give quick energy. (2) If you want to eat dessert in a fashion that gives you access to its quick energy without suffering ill health effects from its otherwise empty calories, be sure your actual dinner consists of especially nutritious foods. (3) For those who haven’t heard of it, ice cream is a food that some people might enjoy as a dessert. Why don’t I ever get recruited for federal panels that can proclaim that fruits and vegetables are healthy and have it treated as news?

    And then there’s the creepy, solemn tone with which servings of “fun foods” are described as being “allowed” as “bonuses” to those of us the panel thinks can be trusted with “discretionary” calories. It makes me feel as if the home ec teacher had just singled me out for making the shapeliest lasagne in the whole eighth grade.

    I realize that while this is pretty much a waste of tax money (reason enough to oppose it), it’s not strictly coercive. But I have no trouble imagining that if, say, some of those inane lawsuits against fast food outlets result in settlements or–heaven forfend–victories in court, one way restaurants might conceive of to protect themselves against future litigants might be to make sure the set meals they offer can be shown to adhere to the new food pyramid.

    2 Responses to “If you don’t have room for your broccoli….”

    1. Auntie Mame says:

      Articles like that make my blood pressure rise.
      Pun intended.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      If only your education had been entrusted to a local collective farm with access to the most recent nutritional guidelines from a centralized board of health. Then the desire to eat all that red meat would have been thrashed out of you–indeed, in an ideal world, you’d still be taking your meals at the community kitchen–and your blood pressure would be fine. Needless to say, you wouldn’t be suffering the repressed anger inherent in being part of the capitalist system, either.
      I think what really made me lose it was the ice cream thing. Like, “And if you’re good, we’ll let you have ice cream sometimes!” I realize Texas A&M isn’t in Dallas, but if you ever run across Prof. Lupton, please give her a good thump for me.