Excuse me! How many people really know what the word "discretion" means?
So how much sense does it really make for the allegedly venerable U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to give its stamp of approval on junk foods? Huh?
Well, I was taking a peek today at the MyPyramid, because it's getting some good buzz recently. According to Health Day, dietitians are saying that it's helping Americans understand how to eat healthily.
As you may recall, the not-so-new pyramid -- which was unveiled April 2005 -- trashes the horizontal pyramid sections and instead features vertical bands in six different colors to represent various foods. For instance, orange stands for grains, green is for vegetables, red implies fruits, blue signals dairy, purple means meat and beans, and yellow conveys oils.
Well, today I zeroed in on the USDA's fascinating idea. You see, the governmental agency says -- well, I'm paraphrasing here -- "Go for it. Use your allowance of `discretionary calories' to eat sugary cereals, soda, candy or other crap."
OK, I'm exaggerating a bit, but seriously, the USDA tells you that if it takes 2,000 calories per day to keep you running, "you need to spend at least 1,735 calories for essential nutrients, if you choose foods without added fat and sugar. Then you have 265 discretionary calories left."
That means you can go for “luxury” versions of foods such as higher fat meat or sweetened cereal. "Or, you can spend them on sweets, sauces, or beverages."
"Luxury" versions of foods? Clearly, the FDA and I differ on our definitions of luxury. (When I think luxury, I think of expensive, tasty, gourmet goat cheese, hearts of palm, fennel or jicama. Yum!)
Discretion really wasn't on my mind today until my blog research assistant Jennifer got me thinking. She encountered this Health Day article, which got here thinking.
Well, my health-conscious point of view seems to positively affect everyone around me. Sure enough, working for me has influenced Jennifer, who's struggling to convey good-food habits to her adorable four-year-old.
She e-mailed me: "Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy? I mean, should the USDA really tell people it’s fine to ingest even a tiny bit of soda or candy, which have no health-boosting properties whatsoever?"
Yeah, yeah, the food pyramid website does caution people to use only a fraction of their recommended daily caloric intake on this stuff. But come on, does the USDA expect us fast-paced, multi-tasking, almost-always-behind-schedule Americans to calculate how much food to leave to discretion?
Besides, should our government agency, whose job is to safeguard public health, give the thumbs-up on soda, candies and other culprit carbs?
Hey, it's one thing to have a "treat" once a while (or even once a week) but to carefully connive and calculate that you can spreand your 265 calories on junk food every day is an absurd notion to consider -- in my opinion, at least.
OK, I'm being a bit harsh here -- the new pyramid definitely really does some good things about it, especially that cute little exercising figure.I just don't think discretion is one of the pyramid's better traits.