What Guides Us

How do you know what to eat and exactly how much?

When I pose this question to participants during the “Nutrition Fact Label” workshop with the Stellar Farmers Markets program I get all sorts of responses- “I eat until I’m full”, “Until my plate is clear”, or even, “When the bag is empty”. We then take this opportunity to discuss how the nutrition fact label found on all of our packaged food tells us what is an appropriate amount for an individual to consume, especially being mindful of what constitutes one serving size. However, I always am sure to address the foods that don’t have labels- fresh fruits and vegetables- and how the more we consume these whole, unprocessed foods the greater chance we have to maintain our health. Decoding the nutrition fact label is tough enough for most of us, but we should be starting to ask ourselves: are there other, greater factors that should be guiding what we eat?

Every five years bring about a revision of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and for the upcoming 2015 revisions, we see recommendations that aim to address some of those items found on food labels- such as reductions in sodium, fat, and added sugars- but it is the new proposal that addresses food sustainability that is garnering lots of attention. Many people wouldn’t think that all this buzz about climate change is linked to the food we eat, but it is! The system in which our food is grown, transported, and eaten is intimately connected with the health of the environment, just as much as it affects our own physical health. By incorporating sustainability recommendations into the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (much like Brazil just achieved!) we can begin to make connections between our food system, climate change, and healthy eating.

The Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy at Teachers College Columbia University has submitted their comments on the new proposal and I recommend giving it a look. They provide a well-written argument for using policy changes to support healthier eating habits through improvements to the food system, and also outline actionable tips for how you can start living and eating more sustainably today. Check it out here!

When thinking about what guides your own food choices, I hope you start to think outside the plate!



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