(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
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.