Diets and USDA Guidelines–Leave It to Beaver

The USDA’s 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee submitted its report in February 2015. As with most menus, this will appeal to “tastes” in various ways:  
The Leave It to Beaver Diet
When I see a Cabbage Soup Diet hailed as a way to “shed holiday pounds” or “lose weight quickly before an important event,” I get a sudden involuntary cramp. Nothing wrong with cabbage, and I imagine the diet has its good points, but I’m not sure I’d want to be around somebody who eats cabbage for seven days in a row.
Nutrition is important, so I’m not belittling the need for eating plans. However, I think back fondly to the days before I even heard the word “diet.”  Because I grew up on a farm in the 60s, the daily menu was set. We had meat, potatoes, and vegetables twice a day, and the morning started with cereal or the bacon and eggs standard. A few pancakes might show up at times, and we often had fish on Fridays, but you get the picture. The Leave It to Beaver diet.
That meant Mom did most of the work, and farm fare was pretty standard. She did try a chop suey meal once in the 60s, but the family reviews were somewhere between confusion and revolt. Three pre-teen boys in overalls weren’t yet ready for such a cultural awakening—even if the meal had no more to do with Asia than the Chinese checkers game in our closet.
I can’t remember hearing much about diets even in my college years. In Iowa City, I lived with three friends, and our attempt to cook alternating meals for each other broke down after a few weeks—about the time the sink became permanently clogged with spaghetti, banana peels, and pop-top rings.
I did hear of one diet plan during those years. Perry had a Dodge station wagon filled with boxes of instant mac and cheese and cases of RC Cola. He was the first techie I ever met—at a time when the only computer on campus was a mainframe about the size of Rhode Island. His profession has since become popular, but I still haven’t seen his exclusive mac and cheese diet touted anywhere. And you’re out of luck if you want an RC Cola.
During the past few decades, a new diet plan pops up about as often as a new fast food outlet opens. The list includes diets such as the Atkins, South Beach, Mediterranean, grapefruit, vegan, low-carb, high protein, and Jenny Craig.  Some are more appealing than others. The Blood Type Diet just doesn’t work for me—sounds too vampirish. However the Okinawan Diet comes from the part of the world with the highest life expectancy. Maybe it’s the tofu and goya. The Kangatarian Diet has a certain bounce to it—vegetarian plus kangaroo meat. The Cookie Diet sounds most sinful, while the Hallelujah Diet most inspirational.
I guess it’s obvious that I’m not a diet guy, but I did hear an interview recently from a proponent of low sugar intake. Dr. Robert Lustig has a book—Fat Chance—and he has supporters and detractors. I imagine sugar and candy companies don’t send him birthday cards. He basically advocates exercise and a diet low in sugar, low in salt, high in fiber, and high in unprocessed food. “Eat brown and green food,” he says. “Eat food that doesn’t even need a label.”
So that brings me back to the farm. In many ways, we followed Dr. Lustig’s plan. We didn’t call it exercise—it was just plain fun until we were older, and it became chores and work—but we ate food off the land, much of it natural and unlabeled–plenty of it brown and green. Oh sure, we had a salt shaker back then, and Mom’s chocolate chip cookies had some sugar in them, but our energy was high, and maybe the best thing is: we Eddie Haskells never even thought about what we ate. It was the Thoughtless Diet.  And there was not even a thought of including cabbage soup on the menu.
For a look at “The Sweet and Sour Fructose Debate,” click here.
by dan gogerty (cartoon from  (picture from


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