The Food Pyramid is out and The Food Plate is in. This is great news for those of us who eat from plates, rather than from pyramids, because now the visual works. Instead of struggling to remember serving sizes, we can all image the perfect plate: half fruits and vegetables, half grains and protein, and a small serving of dairy.
More than the visual, though, The Food Plate works because it highlights the importance of proportion—eating foods in the right ratios—and quite frankly, most American diets are out of whack.
If you’re parenting a new eater I have some simple advice: Place proportion at the top of your concerns. Ask yourself: Does the really good grub—not the marginal, so-so- and only OK fare—dominate your kids’ days?
If you’re feeding an infant, I bet you think I’m being silly. Since babies tend to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, chances are your baby’s got proportion down cold. (We should all eat so well!) But just wait. With toddlerhood comes finger foods, and that’s the beginning of the end. Walk from the infant aisle to the toddler section of your favorite grocery store, and watch the pureed vegetables miraculously turn into veggie puffs.
If you’re parenting a toddler, odds are that your child eats just a tad more refined grains than necessary. Add up all the bread, bagels, cereal, crackers, pretzels, breakfast bars, cookies, pasta, pizza and other grain-stuff most kids load up on, and you’ll see what I mean. Unfortunately, a sprinkling of fruits and that one veggie we all provide at dinner does little to rectify the unevenness in our children’s daily routines.
Grains aren’t the only culprits. There are lots of ways our kids’ diets become misaligned, especially because our munchkins naturally gravitate towards eating the same things over and over.
When our kids consume foods in a ratio that is out of whack, the quality of their overall diet suffers, even if the individual items they are eating are relatively healthy (whole wheat pizza anyone?). And, since repetition reinforces all habits, the more our children eat that way, the more likely they are to eat that way.
The beauty of using proportion as your guide to eating is that everything has it’s place: not just carrots, cantaloupe, chicken nuggets and corn, but also cupcakes, candy, and even caviar too (if that’s up your kids’ alley). In fact, the real boon of using proportion as the foundation for teaching your kids to eat right is that it doesn’t just help you get all those healthful, nutrient-rich foods into their diets, it’s a strategy for correctly packing it all in—the “good,” the “bad,” (and sometimes even the “ugly.”). And quite frankly, that’s what eating right is all about.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~
Dina R. Rose, has a PhD in sociology from Duke University. She has over 15 years experience in teaching and research. Just as importantly, she is also a mother. Dina has been studying how parents teach their children to eat since her daughter was little and she offers lectures, workshops and individual coaching on this topic. She is also the author of the popular blog It’s Not About Nutrition.com.
Published On: June 21, 2011