Nutrition 101

chaliceNot long after reading the Da Vinci Code a few years ago, it occurred to me that while the US Government Food Pyramid was well-intentioned, nobody I knew was able to make it work as a useful daily tool to make good eating decisions. The Pyramid has since been updated but from what I can tell, it’s at least as confusing as the old one for most people.

For me, whenever I see a pyramid, my attention is drawn to the top, like the peak of a mountain. With the Food Guide Pyramid, that’s all the stuff you’re supposed to keep to a minimum.

If you’ve read the Dan Brown book mentioned above, you know that the chalice is the symbol central to the story. So it suddenly dawned on me that flipping the pyramid on it’s end could make it a much clearer and more useful tool for making good, nutrient-dense food choices. And while substrates (carbs, protein and fats) have garnered a lot of attention in recent years, I’ve also found that there is confusion about what exactly a carb “is”. Since the low-carb craze re-ignited, it seems to me most people use the term “carb” and “grain” virtually interchangeably. But take a look at the pictures below.

Broccolicandy cane

Did you know that both candy canes and broccoli are mostly carbohydrates?

It’s much more practical to look at food choices in terms of food groups and the four elements of nutrient-density I defined a few entries back (protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber).

So the chalice is now the central graphic I give my clients to guide their eating. Here are the basic principles of the chalice:

The foods near the top are the most under-represented in most people’s diets, so those are the areas to focus on over the course of the day. The order is roughly representative of what most people need more of, and how much, compared to the other foods.
Most people could use a lot more water. Almost as many need to eat a substantially greater amount of veggies, and so on.
If you’re like a majority of Americans, you don’t (but you should) eat in accordance with two things:
1. Your overall goals
2. What you ate at your last meal and what you’re eating at your next
For instance, the only reason I don’t eat veggies at a meal or snack is that I ate them at the previous meal and I’m planning on eating them at the next one. And while I don’t have a lean protein source at every snack, I do at every meal, without fail.
Make sense?
Please share this with friends and family. It can help them take an important step in the direction of life-long healthful eating.
Learn more about how to get and stay in great shape? Contact Dan at Tri Valley Trainer
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