Thanks Uncle Sam, but We Already Have Lots of Diet GurusBy JEFF GORDINIER
“I must admit personally that I never read the dietary guidelines until I got this job.”
That delightful moment of candor came from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this morning, as he kicked off a news conference to talk about the latest update of the government’s core document when it comes to nutrition.
In case you missed it, these are the 2010 dietary guidelines, even though most of the country has jumped ahead to 2011 by now. So O.K., the report’s a little late, but that’s certainly understandable, since gobs of time and effort and science have gone into it. Secretary Vilsack, speaking in front of a backdrop of pictures of broccoli and peppers and grainy brown bread, made a point of stressing that this was “a comprehensive, science-based effort.”
Note the emphasis on science, as opposed to “what some dude down at the taco stand told me about genetically modified mangoes.”
In that sense, though, it’s hard not to wonder whether the revised dietary guidelines aren’t actually late by a decade or two.
Americans no longer get their nutritional gospel from one central authority (if, indeed, they ever did), and the way we eat has broken down into a fractal mosaic of countless competing belief systems. There are those who bow before Michael Pollan and those who worship at the house of Jenny Craig. There are vegetarians, flexitarians, vegans, locavores, South Beachers, Atkins adherents, and raw-food zealots. There are traditionalists who opt for Weight Watchers, and pioneers (or, well, maybe way-way-back traditionalists) who find their gastronomic answer in the Paleo Diet. There are those who just watch a ton of cooking shows on Food Network and eat whatever they want.
So, yes, boiled down to their essence, the dietary guidelines offer pretty straightforward advice: Consume more fruits and vegetables. Cut down on salt, sugar and saturated fats. Make room for fish. Drink water. Eat less. Move around.
But for every sensible suggestion, there is surely a culinary faction that would disagree, or at least ask a probing and possibly even annoying follow-up question. Eat more fish? Hmmm. Well, where does the fish come from? Eat more vegetables? O.K., but are they organic, and were they grown in your backyard?
So what about you? Are the new dietary guidelines likely to change what you buy in the supermarket and what you order in a restaurant? What, in your opinion, is ultimately the Right Way to Eat?
And be honest: What did you just have for lunch?