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From the Pyramid to the Plate: Governments Seek Solutions to Better Educate the Public Against Obesity

By Francisco Renick, M.D.
  Who doesn't remember the food pyramid that was so insistently taught in schools throughout the world? The pyramid intended to show the different food groups and the portions that should be consumed daily. Although it gave an unclear picture, it was used for years.

In mid-June, in the midst of a sharp increase in worldwide obesity rates, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) decided to change its strategy with one purpose: to get consumers to understand and apply what is taught in its new communications and educational initiative, MyPlate, which as its name suggests, illustrates the necessary daily portions of each of the five food groups through the image of a plate on a place setting in order to build a healthier diet.

With a plate divided into four sections, the MyPlate icon has been designed to teach consumers how to make smart food choices and in what amounts. It indicates that at least half the plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables while the remaining half should be one fourth whole grains or cereals and one third of lean protein. Dairy products are represented by a glass on the side.

How is this relevant in Costa Rica? The Tico's diet has several characteristics that make it different from other countries. Rice, beans and salad, complemented by a protein (such as beef, chicken or fish), known as the traditional "Casado", are never absent in a Costa Rican kitchen. For years this has been the basis of the Ticos diet, without such high rates of obesity among the population. However, today's outlook is very different: Costa Ricans have increased their portion sizes, adding non-traditional or fast foods that appear to be less expensive and "better tasting" but with a minimal nutritional value. The result: according to a study conducted in Chile by the Euromonitor consulting firm, by 2020, Costa Rica will be one of the 10 most obese countries in the world.

Given this situation, various world health organizations are constantly seeking new and effective initiatives to implement within consumers and Costa Rica is no exception. In 2010 the Comisión Intersectorial de Guías Alimentarias, the Instituto de Nutrición de Centroamérica y Panamá (INCAP) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) established the "Guías Alimentarias para Costa Rica" (Costa Rican Dietary Guidelines), in order to give consumers an easy to understand tool applied to the Costa Rican diet and with the goal of guiding them in regards to what and how much to eat.

Tips for a Healthy Diet

• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. The other half should include whole grains, lean protein and dairy products.

• Drink water instead of soda or sugary fruit juice.

• Prefer low-fat (1%) or fat-free milk.

• One serving of protein, such as beef, chicken or fish, should be about the size of your palm.

• Watch and cut your salt intake in foods like soup, seasoning and frozen meals, and boost your calcium intake by adding vegetables and fruits, such as avocado, bananas, almonds, garlic and spinach, among others.

• Choose smaller portions and enjoy your meals, eating slowly and without distractions.


More Health News

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• Six Tips to Help you Adapt Successfully

The one thing constant in life is change. Inevitably, life circumstances are continually in flux and changes that take place within the body on a daily basis are evidence of the shifting nature within. The universal cycle of birth and death epitomizes change and as we witness nature, whether it's watching a seed sprout into a plant or observing the tide recede; change is there.



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