Think, Read, Cook

Because no single way of eating works for everybody.

Are There Lobbyists on Your Plate?


I was so intrigued by this article that I had to  blog about it.

The article is a comparison between what two American authorities – the United States Department of Agriculture and the Harvard School of Public Health – say people should eat every day, in order to remain healthy.

The USDA eating guide, MyPlate, was meant to replace the outdated Food Pyramid that had everybody eating starch 6 to 11 times a day. MyPlate is undoubtedly better balanced than the old pyramid, with half the “plate” representing a person’s food intake being filled by fruits and vegetables. But if you look at the comparison between MyPlate and the Healthy Eating Plate, which is Harvard’s version, the differences tell a story.

For instance, MyPlate recommends a higher proportion of fruits in the diet than the Healthy Eating Plate does. MyPlate also goes heavier on the grains than the Healthy Eating Plate does. MyPlate includes potatoes in with the vegetables, and doesn’t explicitly rule out French fries, whereas the Healthy Eating Plate states that “potatoes and French fries don’t count” as vegetables. And what’s that beside the graphic of the MyPlate plate? It’s a glass of milk. MyPlate recommends that people consume dairy products at every meal – low- or no-fat dairy products. Beside the Healthy Eating Plate? It’s a glass of water. No dairy is on the plate; in fact, the Healthy Eating Plate infographic says to limit dairy to a maximum of 2 servings per day, if you eat it at all.


The USDA is a US government organization. The Harvard School of Public Health isn’t.

The US government is constantly being influenced by lobbyists. Harvard Medical School isn’t.

And the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate is publicized as being developed solely through medical and nutritional research… without the influence of lobbyists.

In that case, can we look at MyPlate and see who’s pressuring the US government? Could be. The grain lobby would be a strong and powerful voice. The fruit lobby, too – they’re probably already taking a beating because fructose, the sugar in fruit, is getting a bad reputation. The potato lobby – not to mention the interest groups for companies that process potatoes into billion of French fries – would be vocal. And you can bet the dairy industry would use their money and influence to keep their products on MyPlate – even though Harvard’s findings say that dairy is an inferior source of calcium, and that high dairy intakes are associated with the risks of certain cancers.

Please, do have a look at the article (here’s another link to it). Even if, like me, you don’t live in the US, you’ll find it fascinating evidence of the power of money over the publication of knowledge. You could say those lobbyists are just trying to keep their industries from collapsing; but their agenda isn’t necessarily the good of your health. And don’t think your government – and mine – isn’t being pressured, too.


10 comments on “Are There Lobbyists on Your Plate?

  1. judy
    April 24, 2013

    Nice recipes there too.

  2. Sam Han
    April 25, 2013

    truly a wake up call to really see what’s on our plate 😀 My plate is unhealthy actually but I try to eat in moderation (quantity-wise and not healthy-choice-wise). I hope (stress hope!) to exercise off the extra calories. Thanks for the wonderful post 😀

    • thinkreadcook
      April 25, 2013

      Thanks for making my day! 😀 I really like your blog, too! Once you find a good exercise program, let me know. I really need to move around more!

      • Sam Han
        April 25, 2013

        Hopefully the day will come around soon when I put on my walking shoes, lol… 😉

      • thinkreadcook
        April 25, 2013

        Hey, that’s my preferred exercise, too… I just need to get motivated! 🙂

  3. theflashcook
    April 25, 2013

    although I’m a little offended on behalf of my fellow peruvians by the exclusion of potatoes as a vegetable, totally fascinating. I think of all the years my mom spent putting sweet corn on the table as our “vegetable” (growing up on the corn belt of course) and plying us with milk because that’s what kids are supposed to drink.

    • thinkreadcook
      April 25, 2013

      Personally, I think potatoes should be a vegetable (though I’m not Peruvian); but I think what Harvard was trying to do was to let people know that French fries aren’t really a nutritious daily addition to one’s diet. Potatoes that haven’t been deep-fried are an excellent source of vitamin C. My mother was only half-hearted about making me drink milk, since she didn’t like it herself, and since all the heavy milk-drinkers in the family had bad osteoporosis. I figure I lucked out there. 🙂

  4. Jannie
    April 26, 2013

    While in general I agree with you, I will point out that university research isn’t entirely free of outside influences either. Especially when it comes to grant money for the research. Corporations and wealthy contributors influence topics of research as well as government grants.

    • thinkreadcook
      April 26, 2013

      Very true – and thank you for pointing that out. It’s yet another reason to be leery of any study… and to try to find out who’s funding it.

  5. Pingback: From the Food Cosmos #9 | Papaya Pieces

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