Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Glutton for Guidelines


Good Eatin'! What it is it? Asparagus in an ice cream bowl, as in the wacky novelty fabric above?

I worked for many years as an editor of a national health magazine, in which we published plenty of articles that referred to the 'food pyramid.' Specifically, the 1992 USDA Food Pyramid.
How I loved this infographic! Not only did it have a  inexplicable starry black night sky, a hint of perspective, and a counter-intuitive interpretation (the items at the top are bad; stuff at the bottom is good), but it exhorted me to make grain - pasta, bread, and cereal -  the star of my meals.

My husband and I took this pyramid at its word, ate large plates of pasta and rice every day, and, over the pyramid's 13-year lifespan, gained more than 20 excess pounds each, and my spouse became prediabetic.

Plus, it inspired this  fun wall hanging that displays many of the food-themed novelty fabrics for which I'm a glutton:
The 'batting ' is black felt, and I did a lot of what's called 'broderie perse,' which means I cut things out of one fabric and stitched them onto another. 

Food fabrics make up the light large central triangles. On the bottom light row, for grains (above the wording) there are fabric triangles representing wheat, corn, matzoh (see my other website), a bakery, sheaves of wheat, pasta, more bread, and a bagel.

Traffic signs are in the black triangles on the right and left sides, to signal what's good fuel,  and what should be approached with caution. I've stitched words with serving quantities down the right side. There are a few fun 3-D images connecting outer triangles, including a teapot, a bottle of hot sauce, a martini and an ice cream float.  The central pyramid is pieced, and everything else is raw-edge applique. The lettering is cut from gold tissue lame, backed with interfacing and fusible web. 


The quilt was on my kitchen wall for years. How we loved it. My children learned so much. It was a terrific conversation piece. (We debated whether Tweetie Bird, who I placed in the meat/fish/dairy row, was a parakeet or poultry.)

Then, nutritionists realized it was flawed. In 2005 the USDA came out with MyPyramid..
Although enigmatic, and the barely-sorted foods look like they've been tossed down quickly for a yard sale, it is quite colorful, and features a back staircase, with a Matisse-like figure clambering up for exercise.

That rather abstract graphic soon gave way to a new shape: circles. In 2011, the USDA issued MyPlate, announced by Mrs. Obama.
Very "modern" colors. The circles aren't as visually compelling to me as the pyramid. But the Harvard Public Health School faculty evolved a variation, with a plate AND a pyramid that are a little more specific, and, for quilters, more visually exciting: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/pyramid/

As for where this is all going, nowadays most nutritionists agree that fresh vegetables and fruit should star in our meals. There's still plenty of controversy about grains (quantities),  protein (quantities, and animal vs. vegetable sources), and the virtues/dangers of fish, dairy, sweeteners, oils, and alcohol. (Should be consumed not at all/in small quantities/moderately/with abandon, depending on who you ask and who pays their salary).

It's no secret that there's an obesity and diabetes crisis in America. Even with shifting guidelines, we all need reminders to eat healthier and exercise more. In the last two of years, I lost many of the pounds I'd gained under the old pyramid, by following the vegan-style eating plan of Joel Fuhrman. author of Eat to Live. If he had a plate infographic, it would be 90% vegetables and fruits, with a small sliver for grains, starchy vegetables, and nuts, and less than 1% for meat, oil and dairy.

Maybe I could use some of those hyper-realistic  fruit and vegetable fabrics, like the RJR Farmer's Market line (no financial affiliation). And instead of the bakery lady with the demure collar and sleeves at the bottom right corner of  my  old pyramid quilt
I could sneak a little phototransfer of our First Lady, with pearls, but sleeveless,
Makes me want to do bicep curls right now.

Put a magnet on the back and hang it from the fridge.

Do you have food and/or nutrition quilts, tablerunners, placemats, etc.? If so,  I'd love to see them!

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