Vegetarian Resource Group Nutrition Advisor Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, was interviewed by Starting Healthy, a publication sent to children’s hospitals, for an article about vegetarian children; by Health Magazine for a story about vegetarian diets for teens; and by Baby’s Own.com for a story about vegetarian pregnancy, infants, and children. VRG Nutrition Advisor Suzanne Havala Hobbs, DrPH, MS, RD, was interviewed for a story about vegetarian diets for Low-Carb Living magazine.
VRG’s Food Service Advisor Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE, is teaching a vegetarian restaurant management course at Los Angeles Trade Technical College for the first time. Also, she has been asked to speak about understanding vegetarian lifestyles from the patients’ perspectives at the California American Dietetic Association annual meeting in March 2005.
Last summer, Congress passed the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill (S. 2507), which is available on the Internet at http://thomas.loc.gov/.
Among key changes of interest to VRG members:
(The following is a reprint of the testimony submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture.)
The Vegetarian Resource Group is a nonprofit educational organization that works with individuals, consumer groups, food companies, professional associations, government agencies, academic institutions, and other relevant constituencies to disseminate accurate information and sound advice to the public concerning vegetarian diets.
We appreciate the opportunity to share our ideas for modifications to the Food Guide Pyramid. We have an interest in this tool being relevant to the broadest range of individuals, including the increasing number of population groups with eating patterns that do not conform to traditional U.S. patterns.
We have several concerns about limitations of the pyramid as it currently exists, namely:
We have the following suggestions for improving the Food Guide Pyramid:
The “Breads, Cereals, Rice, and Pasta” group should be prefaced by the descriptive term “whole grain” and accompanied by a recommendation that at least 50 percent of choices should be whole grains. Graphics should emphasize whole grain products.
Dry beans are now included in the “Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts” group. Dry beans contain substantial amounts of dietary fiber and beneficial phytochemicals, substances for which greater consumption is encouraged. They are high in protein but low in total fat and saturated fat. Nuts are rich sources of unsaturated fat. In contrast, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs contain no dietary fiber and contribute saturated fat and cholesterol, substances consumed in excess in the U.S. diet. Reordering the list as “Dry Beans, Nuts, Eggs, Fish, Poultry, and Meat” could help indicate that dry beans are a particularly healthful choice. In addition, more graphics of non-meat sources of protein should be used.
The FGP should support adequate intakes of vitamin E. Greater emphasis should be placed on nuts, nut butters, and vegetable oils. This might be accomplished by adding a new food grouping titled “Nuts and Seeds Group.”
Currently, all fats are included in the tip of the pyramid as “Fats, Oils, and Sweets.” Health-supporting fats from vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds should not be grouped with saturated fats and trans fatty acids.
Since many consumers use only limited amounts of dairy products, and given that dairy products are not traditionally included in the diets of many ethnic groups, the FGP should emphasize multiple sources of calcium in place of the current “Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group.” The list should include dark green vegetables and fortified foods, including soymilk, rice milk, and fruit juices fortified with calcium. While these foods contribute comparable amounts of calcium, plant sources of calcium have the added advantage of being low in saturated fat and devoid of cholesterol as compared with milk and other dairy products, which are the major contributors of excessive intakes of these nutrients in the U.S. diet. Non-dairy sources of calcium should be included in the graphic representation of the FGP. In fact, rules now permit soymilk to be served in lieu of cow’s milk in the NSLP. We are including a copy of an article where a Food Guide Pyramid for vegetarians was developed to identify high-calcium foods from each food group. This could be modified for the general public to illustrate the importance of a variety of sources of calcium.
While all foods can have a place in a health-promoting diet, some foods are more nutrient dense than others. We suggest developing a graphic to identify nutrient-dense foods in each food group and differentiate better choices from those foods that should be eaten not more than occasionally. For example, cooked dried beans are a nutrient-dense food. Luncheon meats, which are in the same group, should be eaten sparingly, if at all.
The existing FGP, with its emphasis on animal products, does not meet the needs of vegetarians and an increasing number of populations with eating patterns at odds with a traditional U.S. diet. A recent Harris poll conducted for The Vegetarian Resource Group found that 6 percent of the U.S. population regularly avoids consuming meat. The food industry has identified an even larger number of “meat restrictors,” individuals who are actively reducing their dependence on foods of animal origin. Finally, data from Census 2000 underscore the fact that our increasingly diverse racial and ethnic U.S. population requires food programs and recommendations that are designed with cultural competency in mind. For example, a majority of those who today are considered racial or ethnic minorities are lactose intolerant and/or have no tradition of consuming dairy products. Since one objective of the revision of the FGP is to make it possible for consumers to personalize the pyramid, we urge you to consider these groups, including the vegetarian audience, when developing modifications that allow consumers to personalize the FGP.
Thank you for your consideration of these comments.
Suzanne Havala Hobbs, DrPH, MS, RD
Reed Mangels, PhD, RD
Nutrition Advisors, The Vegetarian Resource Group
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