Nutritional Literacy Anthology If this was a prezi, it would have been so much cooler. By: Talitha Koehler, apparent food snob
In the United States in 2011, the definition of “food” is changing and there are so many morechoices than because of it. Twinkies have become only one of many different non-food itemsnow available at the grocery store (others include Bac-O’s, Diet Pepsi, and blue Jell-O). Food isfast and now given greater importance if it can be convenient and tasty (a.k.a. teeming withadded salt and sugar), rather than nutritionally beneficial. Processed foods are profitable, thusthe companies that make such items continue to encourage support from the American people.It is because of this new array of food choices that there exists a growing need for nutritionalliteracy. Because it can be hard to navigate, many systems have been implemented that attemptto simplify healthy eating. Some are more effective than others, yet obesity rates are still rising,signifying the lack of real efficacy of any. There needs to be more of an emphasis on the rightkind of information. Our survival depends on it. But first, we have to figure out what the rightinformation is.Food rating systems that associate a number, letter grade, or point value to food attempt tomake nutrition accessible to those that would otherwise not know. A NuVal score is given tonearly every item in King Soopers, helping people decide between two similar items. However, itdoes not help put food in context. How often should one eat kale or oranges? The sciencebehind NuVal seems to make the public’s health its greatest concern. It factors in things like iron,calcium, trans fats, and sodium. Yet we are left unsure as to how much iron or calcium we needor how little trans fats and sodium we should ingest. The ANDI can be seen at Whole Foods, thusreaching a different clientele. It also is not on every item in the store, purposefully avoiding mostprocessed foods. The fooducate app is only available to those with fancy enough phones todownload it. A separate screen attempts to explain the rating, but only as far as a phone appcan.
Food categorization systems allow consumers to choose their own foods while applying somereasoning to each decision. These systems place more emphasis on certain categories thanothers, while simultaneously teaching the importance of each category. These categories,however, are not the source of healthy living. Unhealthy foods can fit into most of the groups aswell. None of them seem to acknowledge diets of other cultures that are strikingly different, yetsustain their peoples as well as ours, if not better. Examples include “the Inuit in Greenland*who+ subsist largely on seal blubber,” “Central American Indians *who+ subsist largely on maizeand beans,” and “Masai tribesmen in Africa [who] subsist cheifly on cattle blood, meat, andmilk” (Pollan, xii). There is a benefit to these systems, though. They simplify food into groups.They are easy to access and easy to understand. They also help people differentiate vegetablesfrom meat.Food companies have long been under the scrutiny of nutritionists. Some believe the lack ofinformation given by these companies is what is leading to our high obesity rates. To counteractthese accusations, companies have started to provide nutritional information for those willing toseek it out. This means that websites are full of facts, but the storefronts still lack them. Findingexamples of companies’ attempts to educate the public were hard, especially when illiteracy canincrease profits.Finally, this anthology places different sets of food rules together. These are in simple language.They take into account the many different sides of nutrition. WIC and food assistance programsaccount for class disparities and only allow certain foods to be bought with government money.Michael Pollan’s rules are collected from many different sources and are available to manydifferent people. He lists Chinese proverbs and advice from your grandmother. Mostly, though,his rules boil down to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”
In Lives on the Boundary by Mike Rose, literacy is discussed as a complicated issue. An IQ test orother assessment may say something about a student, but cannot explain the intricacies ofsomeone’s literacy. In fact, classifying a student as a simple test score causes more problems inhis or her ability to learn. The same is true with grammar rules. Because a student has issueswith spelling or sentence structure, he or she is often assumed to have no critical thinking skills.These exist independently, though. And just as a score cannot completely describe a person, anumber cannot fully describe a food item, nor can a weight account for a person’s level ofnutritional literacy. Because a person is unaware of the caloric value of a Big Mac, doesn’tnecessarily mean that person lacks the critical thinking it takes to understand how unhealthy itis.Deborah Brandt, in Literacy in American Lives, also discusses the limitations of basing literacystudies on “indirect evidence such as signature rates, book circulation, or the growth ofschooling… standardized test scores or education levels or surveys of reading habits” (Brandt,10). She chose instead to “characterize literacy not as it registers on various scales but as it islived” (Brandt, 11). Similarly, nutritional literacy can only be understood once we see how obesepeople live, why they make the decisions they do, and how those decisions can change.There are many similarities to the attitudes of those who are overweight or obese and theHallway Hangers in Ain’t No Makin’ It. They don’t see the bigger picture. They just don’t see howchanging habits will create success. They need to see someone in their situation excel in orderto understand their own abilities. And just as the Hallway Hangers were born of the samesituation and continued the social constructions through their own children, so too are thedietary habits of children born from the unhealthy eating habits of their parents.
Section I• Food rating systems – Often a number or letter grade, these ratings are given without an explanation. The science behind them is rarely seen, available online but not on the product itself. – They are created by non-government organizations and therefore do not have to follow the guidelines of the USDA. – Scientifically comparing positive attributes of the food to the negative, these systems allow the benefits of fruits and vegetables to shine without having to classify them separate from processed foods. However, there is no explanation of when certain low- scoring foods can be eaten or when they should be avoided. Sometimes a 35 is better for the situation than a 72, but when?
The ANDI (Aggregate NutrientDensity Index) ScoreCan be seen at Whole FoodsQuinoa=21 Source: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/healthstartshere/andi.php
NuVal (Nutritional Value) ScoresCan be seen at City Market andKing SoopersCocaCola=1 Source: http://www.nuval.com/science
The Fooducate app grades almost anything with a barcode.Tortilla chips=C+ Source: http://www.fooducate.com/
Section II• Food categorization systems – These attempts to create food categories allow the consumer to have more freedom in choosing what foods to eat. – While additional advice is often given, the pyramid or plate only offers serving recommendations of specific food groups. This may lead some to eat pizza and french fries (which are both vegetables) with chocolate milk, a very unhealthy meal. There is no calorie cutoff included in the pyramid. – Most of these systems are created for USDA use and hopefully created with concern for the public’s health, yet the USDA has interests in the success of agriculture and pyramid promotion is often sponsored by the Dairy Council. The adherence to such a system, then, might not be the healthiest choice overall.
ANDI’s food pyramidCategories: Vegetables, Fruit, Nuts/Seeds, Beans, Whole Grains/Starchy VegetablesThere is an emphasis on vegetables and fruit. Processed foods are mentioned near thebottom. Source: http://www.goodlifer.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/GL_ANDIscore2.jpg
USDA’s MyPyramid from 2005Categories: Grains,Vegetables, Fruits,Milk, Meat and BeansThe categories aremore evenly sized andthe idea of exercise isincluded. Source: http://www.mypyramid.org/plan.php
USDA’s MyPlate from 2011Categories: Fruits, vegetables,grains, protein, dairyExercise is no longer included, butthe idea that fruits andvegetables should take up halfyour plate is introduced. Dairy isstill mentioned specifically, ratherthan foods containing calcium. Source: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
Section III• Companies’ Attempts to Educate – While seemingly educational, these attempts are rarely influential in the overall health of the consumer. – They are aimed at gaining the trust of customers without aiding in the development of nutritional literacy. – Even with a healthy choice logo or 100 calorie limit, the foods that these particular systems choose to label are unhealthy. These examples include McDonald’s cheeseburgers, cookies, and chips.
McDonald’s wrapper with nutritional information Information listed: calories, protein, fat, carbs, sodium This is controversial, since viewing the information after you’ve received your food is not helpful in making a decision based on that information. Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/26/business/26food.html
Sample of the many 100 calorie snacks available Information listed: CaloriesThese snacks don’t inform the consumer how many calories should be ingested per day. Source: google.com
SMART CHOICES MADE EASY Source: http://www.smartchoicesprogram.com/nutrition.htmlInformation listed: Umm… it’s a smart choice? Source: http://www.shapingyouth.org/?p=5222It’s hard to learn anything from a green circle.
Section IV• Food Rules – Rather than explain how and where a food item may fit into your diet, as was the case with all three of the previous systems, these rules attempt to eradicate unhealthy choices all together. – These rules account for much more than the numerical input of previous systems, instead emphasizing a variety of whole foods. For example, chocolate milk and chips are unnecessary and should therefore be avoided. – The greatest effect comes from the artifacts in this last section. Diet is changed most drastically here. Yet the ability to survive without nutritional literacy is also greatest here. But that is exactly what Michael Pollan suggests we need, a food system that allows for low nutritional literacy because unhealthy choices simply do not exist.
WIC WIC has specific foods that are authorized. The WIC check has them listed.Source: http://dhss.delaware.gov/dph/chca/dphwichominf01.html Source: http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/WIC-Fact-Sheet.pdf
Food Stamps/ Food Assistance Programs The government states explicitly what food can or cannot be bought with this money. Source: http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDHS-SelfSuff/CBON/1251582131809
Food Rules by Michael PollanMajor Rules: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Encompassing ideas such as hunger and the psychology behind eating makes this book so much farther-reaching than any numerical system could be. Source: http://michaelpollan.com/books/food-rules-illustrated-edition/
Works CitedBrandt, Deborah. Literacy in American Lives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.MacLeod, Jay. Aint No Makin It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-Income Neighborhood. Boulder: Westview, 2009.Pollan, Michael. Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. Penguin Books, 2009.Rose, Mike. Lives on the Boundary: A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America’s Educationally Underprepared. Penguin Books. 1989.