Part II : Why is the Standard American Diet (SAD) so sad? My comment on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report 2015

(Here is the second part to my previous post).

You can read all submitted comments on: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2015/comments/readComments.aspx

Comment ID #29933

05/08/2015

This is part II of my comment, meant to complement my Public Oral Testimony that I provided at the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee public meeting on March 24.
Humans, part of the beautiful number of species on Earth, are no different from the other species. We NEED food to stay alive, and in order to get our food, we need a healthy soil and a healthy ecosystem. Some can say that to feed ourselves the only thing we NEED is money, as we can buy anything we need – but I would like to see whether or not we can eat money when everything else is gone.
I think it is also clear, that we, humans, come in various “shapes and sizes”, with various preferences and tastes, there are different things that make us feel at our best and perform the best. The simplest yet the biggest, most impactful, most courageous recommendation the Dietary Guidelines could make would be saying clearly and loudly these few things:
Eat real food. Most of the time. Real foods means foods that don’t have labels, foods that don’t have claims. Like the slogan on one of the USDA programs says: “Know Your Farmer. Know Your Food”.
What we need is to simplify, to cut through the lingo of nutrition and talk about food as it is, not to make it once again simple for the food industry to “reformulate” their products so that they would still adhere to the “standards” of the Guidelines.
If we keep giving bland recommendations then let me predict what will be the next “Big Thing” in processed foods – the industry will most probably find a new claim, a new hype…for example, how does “plant based” sound? Suddenly the shelves are filled with these new “Plant-based” products, promising health and longevity in all its various forms, no matter what’s in the ingredient-list?
The National School Lunch Act requires that the School Lunch program reflects the most recent Dietary Guidelines. Current guidelines demand that school lunches were to include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat dairy, while limiting unhealthy fats and sodium. While it all sounds beautiful in words, the reality is different. Children in America are being fed highly processed foods from the day they are born, in the day-care, in the kindergartens and in school. There are places and schools out there that have now adhered to a farm-to-school approach and this is wonderful, but it is far from being the reality for most of Americans.
Now here is the real underlying issue: Americans cook less and less, and eat out more and more. We are busy making money to buy the things we don’t need. Who has time to cook? The convenience foods have become SO convenient that they are eaten on an everyday basis. They were never meant to. We need to go back to real foods, foods that can not be reformulated.
If health & well-being of the American population is what the Guidelines are ultimately about, we should offer sound advice that EVERYBODY can understand and relate to.
It is not a question whether we should ALL be vegan, ALL be eating meat, ALL be eating this or that. We are diverse and the food we eat is diverse. That’s the beauty of it.
Eating and cooking (seasonal and local where possible) real vegetables (not food “made with this and that vegetable”), real fruits (not foods “made with this and that fruit-like substance”, nuts and seeds, legumes for those whom it makes them feel good, ancient real grains for those whose digestive system can optimally process them and for those who wish and feel, animal foods and raw dairy with all their cholesterol & saturated fats (from animals raised in a habitat that respects their natural behaviors, that lets them be the animals they were born to be).
The good news is that the critical mass, the ones who wish to know where our food comes from, is growing. It includes guerilla gardeners like Ron Finley changing the food-deserts in South-Central LA, Slow Food USA movement & Richard McCarthy (excellent comment from his part), people all-over the USA building resilient and sustainable food-systems. The mainstream is not (yet) participating.
The critical mass keeps growing and people across America keep getting empowered. Change does not happen overnight, it happens step by step.
Currently there are almost 9000 farmers markets across the country and many grass-roots projects are popping up. People understand it is ultimately up to us. Consumers are the ones who will be leading the conversation very soon, it is already happening, a lot of work is being done. At times I get discouraged but I try to keep my eye on the positive change.
If we wish to lead successfully, we have to recognize the problem and take action to fix it, before we are in a state of emergency.

Thank You
Marii
http://www.backyetforward.com

Affiliation: Individual/Professional Organization: Back Yet Forwards

Topic:

  • General Comment/Other
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Why is the Standard American Diet (SAD) so sad? My comment on the Dietary Guidelines Report 2015

Dietary Guidelines for Americans is an important document, which has a big influence on our nation’s food & nutrition policies (including school lunch programs), as well as on the food industry. After all, given that most of the country runs (most of the time) on processed foods, the grocery manufacturers have a lot of power in their hands. As people in the USA seem to be relying more on food labels (instead of their inner wisdom or even traditions) to tell them what is “healthy” or nutritious, all that food manufacturers need to do is just reformulate the non-nutritious junk on the supermarket shelves (along with re-wording their labels and health claims).  10% less of “this” or “that”? “Now without artificial colors”? Added vitamins A, C, D & E? “Made with whole grains”? All of these might sound like a good thing to the average consumer, but in reality we could not be further from the truth.

As long as the Dietary Guidelines fail to make the most important of all differences, to talk Loud & Clear about what food IS, and what food IS NOT, for so long the “epidemics” that the country is struggling with will prevail. In the upcoming days, weeks & months (until HHS & USDA will issue the final Dietary Guidelines 2015, due sometime later this year), you will hear me speaking more about these Guidelines & about why we are where we are.

Here you can have access to all of the Written Comments (both by public/individuals as well as food manufacturers) on this years Report:  http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2015/comments/readComments.aspx

Before the Guidelines are finalized, HHS & USDA are supposed to take into account these comments. In my future posts I will speak more about the polarized and clashing view that can be seen both is the comments and that I also witnessed at the Public Meeting in Bethesda.

For now, here is my comment I submitted to the Federal Government on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s Report 2015. (I would love to have a discussion and hear your thoughts! Whoever you are, and however you found your way on my site, I am looking forward to connect with you!). WE ALL EAT. And even more so : WE ARE ALL PART OF THE WHOLE.

Comment ID #29812
05/08/2015
Thank you for the opportunity to provide a comment on the DGAC Report 2015.
I would like to start off by saying that I am writing this comment first and foremost as a human being who feels the need to speak up. Secondly, due to my passion towards food, nutrition & health as well as out of respect towards the people who are growing our food, the real way. All the people who are part of the food revolution that is currently taking place all across the US.
My comment comes in 2 parts and it is meant to complement my Public Oral Testimony that I provided at the DGAC public meeting on March 24.
I do not work in the medical field nor do I have a PhD in Food Sciences. I do not represent the beverage association, meat, dairy or any other industry. I don’t have an agenda and I don’t have a product to sell. As an individual I am not worried about loosing profit. What I am worried about – is our loss of integrity & courage as a society in whole.
Isn’t it about time we stop the battle between different food industries, the childish game of “who is right” and “who is wrong”, removing one food group or highlighting another one like we’ve done in the past decades? As we have seen –it has not brought the change we are saying we want to accomplish.
If we truly do wish to stop and reverse the conditions that the American nation as a whole is currently faced with, we need to work collaboratively to bring about this change in culture. And this change starts with emphasizing what “food is” and what “food is not”.
The Dietary Guidelines is an important document with a huge influence. It is not just a piece of recommendations to the public that they may or may not follow – (and I can tell you that the majority of the population does not even know what the Guidelines are and that they exist). On the other hand, the policies and programs that are based on the most recent Guidelines have a very direct effect on people’s health. For example: FDA Nutrition Facts & other labeling programs, National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the School Breakfast Program (SBP) – just a few examples to make us realize how much weight the Guidelines have. Therefore it is of utmost importance that we “do the right thing”.
If the Dietary Guidelines really want to create the “culture of health” that the Committee is talking about – it has to give clear, simple & sound information that the aforementioned entities can build their programs & regulations on. Currently school breakfasts and lunches seem like a nutritional nightmare, as well as food served at hospitals. The system is in need of a real big change.
The Guidelines is a complex document, and many factors contribute to whether it will be a success or not. There are many parties involved & whether we choose to say it out loud or not – these parties have conflicting interests. But we should not forget: we can only succeed if ALL parties involved want to succeed. And to be honest – I am not too sure if ALL parties do.
Let’s face the facts: the Current Standard American Diet is truly what it name says: SAD.
“America’s National Eating Disorder” (as would say Michael Pollan) starts in the early childhood.
We live in a culture where the first ingredient in the Infant Formula that is advertised to consumers as “#1 Brand Fed in Hospitals” and “Recommended by Pediatricians” is corn syrup, followed by sugar (?) and soybean oil. Is that really what we choose to feed our newborns? Is that the best we can do? Does the fact that it contains 2% of  “added vitamins and mineral” really make it a healthy choice?
If we want to say that “the science is clear” – (to reformulate what many people have started off their comments before me) I think that there is only ONE thing the science is clear about :
Whole, real foods are good for us ; highly processed food-products are not good for us.
FOOD does not come out of a can or box, it does not have a long list of non-evolutionary ingredients. Yes, we can approach it from the “we can eat everything in moderation”. But, the current Standard American Diet is almost entirely made out processed foods, and that is not what in moderation means.
The sad thing is that on one hand the Government is supporting low-quality cheap industrial foods by subsidizing the 3 biggest crops, wheat, corn and soy (or as I would call them, “crap-crops”) that make up most of the processed foods, in one form or another. Might it be the flours, isolates, fillers, starches, soybean or corn oil or the feed that goes to industrially raised animals and dairy that the majority of the US consumes. On the other hands they are trying to deal with the consequences. Seems a little counter-intuitive to me, even absurd. Not to you?
How about we address the root of the problem and stop using a band aid over and over again on a different spot? How about we stop this nonsense?
I think we can do better. Our responsibility as humans is to do better.
Thank You.

Marii
http://www.backyetforward.com

Affiliation: Individual/Professional Organization: Back Yet Forward
Topic:
Part A: Executive Summary