The Latest on Nutrition - Nutrition Week

ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS Courtney Garcia

Though early in 2011, the government took progressive steps to advance the cause of nutrition in the United States, later developments seemed to detract from whatever positive momentum may have been achieved. It began in June when Michelle Obama – health mercenary – threw out the food pyramid most of the nation had grown up memorizing and began a new brigade know as the “My Plate.” While the old pyramid had it’s largest portion vested in a base of grains, the new plate is divided into quadrants with veggies reigning supreme.

My Plate was additionally supplemented by Let’s Move!, another initiative Mrs. Obama took to creatively, and, more importantly, reasonably devise ways for kids to get active. She used words like “60 minutes of play,” (i.e. not exercise) in regards to daily regiment, and contrasted such exertion to the 7.5 hours adolescents spend on average investing in entertainment. The site – www.letsmove.gov – suggests activities children can do to break up their spans of TV-watching, including jumping jacks, racing up and down stairs, jogging in place, and chores. Not sure how the last tip will pan out, but it’s certainly amusing to imagine five-year-olds doing squats during commercial breaks of Sponge Bob.

Mrs. Obama’s stalwart plan to reinvigorate the country on health and exercise was overshadowed, nevertheless, when Congress seemingly made moves in the opposite direction. In November, the legislature shut down efforts to amend regulations that would disqualify potatoes and the now infamous “tomato paste,” from being considered vegetables under the law. The decision was met with a smirk by the nation, pointing out how consequently schools could continue to serve pizza and French fries in good faith to students. Outrage and snarky critiques spread like salmonella, with the public out-crying, “Pizza, a vegetable?!

Essentially though, it seems a tad ‘much ado about nothing.’ How much do any of these changes or not-changes alter the habits of public eating? Looking more deeply into the context of nutrition proves simplifying the details might not always be the best solution, and true health success often stems from great awakenings. Sometimes all the right ingredients measure up to the preventative power of medicine even. For people like Reina Nishida, a young entertainment professional living in New York City, who was diagnosed with Lupus (SLE) this year, the so-called ‘plate’ cannot be arbitrarily defined.

“With this change in my health, my rheumatologist prescribed steroids and other meds to fight it,” Nishida recalls. On the flipside, she opted to research holistic remedies that would enable her to avoid being medicated for the length of her life, and began to see a nutritionist. “I was basically told to go gluten-free and eventually try the anti-inflammatory diet. I also started keeping track of everything I ate and drank during the day. I now know portion size and how much I’m eating.”

As a result, Nishida has been enabled to fight her illness and lose weight in the process. She notes, “The changes I made helped me lose about four pounds. I had gained 15 pounds due to the side effects of steroids this summer. “

Nishida’s plate/pyramid is not as cut and dry as My Plate. She describes it as “40% vegetables, 5% fruit, 10% dairy, 20% grains and 25% meat/protein,” whereas in the past she’d gravitated almost solely towards carbs. And accordingly, life has tendered signs of gratitude for the tailored, somewhat unusual care towards the details.

“I’m now eating better, exercising, getting enough sleep, and am off most of these drugs,” comments Nishida. “The most important thing I eat and drink is vegetable juice. I got a juicer this summer when I found out I was sick. I juice kale, cucumber, celery, apples, ginger – and try to juice once every day. It definitely gives me energy and helps me feel better throughout the day.”

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