The Clarkes Versus the Food Pyramid

Have you seen the Food Pyramid recently?

You can find it at MyPyramid.gov.  It’s not the same one I grew up with….nice little bricks of color laid on top of one another in decreasing size and importance.

Now the pyramid looks like colored lines of varying widths (not even in size order which is very disturbing to visual-learner, perfectionist types like myself) set up against one another like dominoes.  With one tiny breeze they could just collapse onto one another like a pile of sticks.  Doomed to fail.   And apparently it is failing if the obesity rate in this country proves anything.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Noah’s cub scout pack is working on the theme of physical fitness this month.  Along with the exercise goals he has to work toward this month he has to learn about the food pyramid.  There is always a family time element to the cub scout requirements.  Learning about the food pyramid is the required family activity.  (I am mentioning this fact to control some of the snickering that is about to ensue when you read the rest of this post and get the impression that I am a “helicopter parent” who won’t let her child do his project himself.  “REQUIRED FAMILY ACTIVITY” people. 🙂  )

Anyway,   as you know, I have been reading and rereading the Andrew Weil books “Healthy Aging” and “8 Weeks to Optimal Health”, and have found them having a real influence on what I put in my family’s pantry for our week’s meals.  I am slowly revamping what we eat as we become a “Fitness Family”.   (Talked about this in a previous post.)

If you follow the activity according to the cub scout book you will visit the pyramid website, print up their black and white worksheet of the pyramid, and have your child happily and quickly coloring in the lines and gluing pictures of food on those lines.

Not the Clarkes!  I don’t agree with the government’s food pyramid.   I decided to make my own copy of what  I think is the closest thing to a healthy food pyramid.   I found Andrew Weil’s “Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid”.  Woo-hoo! 

Of course being that this is a family activity I decided this pyramid could not be drawn on just any piece of paper but on the foam board you buy at a craft store.  When we were done I was going to display it proudly in our kitchen so we can look at it as a family at the kitchen table while we eat dinner, patting ourselves on the back for how well we are meeting the requirements.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon making a “worksheet” for Noah to fill in.  It is a 2 feet high, 2 1/2 feet wide, foam board worksheet that contains categories like: “cooked asian mushrooms, healthy herbs and spices, supplements, whole and cracked grains, legumes, whole soy foods”….words my first grade, power ranger obsessed, emergent reader can barely pronounce let alone understand what they are.  

Undeterred, I sat my little student down and had him cut and glue (at least some) pictures to fit in the spaces of the “Anti Inflammatory Food Pyramid”.  

“Mom, what’s soy?”, the curious first grader.

“You know, the milk Mommy drinks.  The tofu that I eat.  (And the chicken nuggets you eat that I keep letting you believe are real chicken),” I answer sweetly.

“That stuff is gross”. Silence. “I don’t like milk,  just Carnation Instant Breakfast….Wait a minute….Is that a picture of chocolate at the top?  Do you mean I get to eat chocolate all the time?!” Noah envisioning a pantry stocked full of candy, clearly losing healthy eating point of the pyramid.

“See that word ‘sparingly’ honey?”, I answer sweetly.

“What does that mean?” Noah, skeptically.

“Not a whole lot.” Me.

Michael has walked in at this point and Noah shows him the chart.  Michael studies it.

“So where does all the meat that we eat fit on this thing?  How about the white rice the kids love?  The soy sauce Noah pours all over everything?  How about all the Cheez-Its and Kashi crackers?  Shouldn’t they be like the first three layers of our pyramid?”, Michael pouring the cold water of reality over me.  (Okay, so he didn’t really say that last part, but I could hear it in his voice.)

“Ahem….ummm….(reaching for an answer)…Well this is how we are supposed to be eating,” I answer, tempted to throw the beautiful pyramid out in the trash.

I then began – a little less enthusiastically to expound on the importance of this food pyramid and our need to fight inflammation in our bodies that promotes aging……

Well, I wanted to give up at this point.  I mean, Noah loves Carnation Instant Breakfast.  (And believe me, I’ve tried to find health store alternatives and they really are made of grass.  Even my mom thinks so, so there.) He loves Hebrew International hot dogs.  The kids inhale white rice at the Thai restaurant.  We all adore pretzels and Cheez-its.  According to one of my children, only celery, iceberg lettuce and baby carrots fit into the vegetable food group. 

So what is a family becoming a “Fitness Family” supposed to do? 

Keep trying.  Keep talking.  Keep buying new foods.  Try foods over and over again.  Get the kids and husband involved in shopping.  Talk to the kids about how they feel after they eat certain foods.  And never, ever, ever give up.

I put a motto on our food pyramid- and yes, I did not chuck it.  I put it above our dry erase board next to our kitchen table, for all to view at the family meal.

The motto is: “Food Should and Can Taste Good…. and Be Healthy Too!”

I am prepared to try one hundred more ways of serving vegetables, fruit, tofu, beans, etc in ways that my family might find acceptable and finally start eating.  Because I love them.  And that is reason enough for me.

Food Pyramid….bring it on!

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