The field of weight management is full of contradictions. Today, eating chocolate is the best thing you can do to protect your heart, while tomorrow, chocolate will be vilified as one of the many foods that helped to usher in the current obesity epidemic. From time to time, however, there are those findings that tend to have greater longevity. Remember the Food Guide Pyramid? It reigned supreme as the ultimate guide to nutrition for over a decade. Recently, though, the venerable guide was replaced by a new concept altogether – the USDA’s My Plate.
As the founder of the Cederquist Medical Wellness Center, and a board-certified bariatric physician, I agree with the USDA’s decision to find a replacement for the antiquated Food Guide Pyramid. When I founded BistroMD, a weight loss meal delivery program that delivers healthy and delicious meals to one’s home, it was because I recognized the challenge of healthy eating. While the new Plate provides more helpful information, it still does not provide a guideline for those seeking to lose weight.
These pyramid recommendations did not work for the majority of Americans because the data used to generate the recommended daily intake of the various food groups were gleaned from studies conducted on young men with high levels of physical activity.
For example, the body’s ability to metabolize the carbohydrates found in grains, cereals and fruits depend upon many things. Included in these metabolic variables are the amount of muscle tissue a person has, his or her level of physical activity and his or her levels of hormones. A physically active young man is able to metabolize carbohydrates very differently than an adult of either gender who is older, more sedentary or who has gained weight.
A more mature and more sedentary woman will be very different metabolically from the young active man, and the recommendation for her to eat a large percentage of her calories in the form of carbohydrates will cause her to gain weight, especially in the abdominal area. This abdominal weight gain is a key contributor to heart disease, high cholesterol and a metabolic condition that makes it easy for her to gain even more weight.
It seems that the USDA was also having second thoughts about the accuracy of the information being conveyed by the Food Guide Pyramid because, as of 2011, it was replaced with My Plate – a dinner plate that depicts the surface area that protein, vegetables, fruits and grains should cover for a typical meal. In addition to the four solid food groups, there is also a cup that represents the importance of also including dairy as part of a healthy meal.
The problem with My Plate is similar to that of the Food Guide Pyramid. While My Plate goes much further to accommodate a larger cross-section of the U.S. population, it still leaves out a very large group – people needing to lose weight.
To shed those extra pounds while still eating a satisfying and healthy diet, you need a Weight Loss Plate like the one I developed working with my team of dietitians and weight loss experts.
Currently, My Plate does not cater to individuals who struggle with excessive weight, other than to recommend that they eat less. Its suggestion for those needing to lose weight is simply to eat less, but it does not suggest what particular items to eat less of. This is not helpful because a dieter may cut everything down and become protein deficient while getting more than enough grains, for example.
To shore up the shortcomings of My Plate, The Cederquist Medical Wellness Center Weight Loss Plate suggests that dieters increase the recommended servings of vegetables, specifically those that are non-starchy. I suggest eliminating My Plate’s servings of grains in favor of a new category called fruits or healthy starches.
In order to avoid the dieter’s nightmare – excessive intake of carbohydrates –I also recommend that our Weight Loss Plate be comprised of one half vegetables, one quarter lean protein, and one quarter of grains, fruit, or dairy.
For the last quarter of the plate, it is acceptable to combine the three options, so long as they do not comprise more than a quarter of the plate.
In addition to reducing My Plate from four sections of plate down to just three, the Weight Loss Plate also replaces the recommended dairy with water, as an individual does not need to consume three servings of dairy a day to maintain a nutritionally sound diet.
When selecting your actual Weight Loss Plate, I recommend choosing a plate that is 10 inches in diameter.