October 21, 2010 Political Project Pushes American Kids To Vegan Diet
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Let’s Move!, a nationwide initiative created by First Lady Michelle Obama to promote making healthy choices and improving food quality in schools, are challenging school nutrition professionals, chefs, students, parents and interested community members to create tasty, healthy, exciting new recipes for inclusion on school lunch menus across the country.
Participants will form teams to develop, document and prepare at least one healthy recipe in one of three categories, including whole grains, dark green and orange vegetables, or dry beans and peas. Their creations will be served in the school’s cafeteria and rated by students.
Fifteen semi-finalist teams will have their recipe evaluated by a judging panel during events held at their school, and the top three teams will compete in a national cook-off to determine the grand prize winner. Semi-finalists’ recipes also will be posted for online voting by the public to determine a Popular Choice Winner.
Executive Director of Legislative Affairs Kristina Butts said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendation to move to a plant-based diet is sending the wrong message to consumers. Adding to the misconceptions about the importance of meat in a well-balanced diet is USDA’s recently launched school lunch recipe contest that excludes meat from the recipe categories.
“First off, USDA’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendation for a plant based diet causes consumers to wrongly assume that they are eating too much meat. We are not eating too much meat. The fact is, plants already make up 70 percent of our diets. On average, Americans are consuming about 2.3 ounces of red meat per day, well within 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” said Butts. “By excluding meat from its healthy kids recipe contest, USDA continues to add to the misconception that meat is over consumed in the United States.”
The newly proposed 2010 Dietary Guidelines issued by USDA and Human Services suggests a plant-based protein diet. The guidelines are updated every five years. The final report is slated to be released yet this year. Butts said U.S. cattlemen and women need to encourage their elected lawmakers to ask USDA to use science and facts when finalizing the dietary guidelines. Butts said lean beef needs to be incorporated as part of the solution to curbing obesity and promoting a healthy lifestyle for children and adults.
“With the obesity epidemic growing and the baby-boomer generation aging, the benefits of high-quality protein like beef have never been more critical,” she said. “Calorie for calorie, beef is one of the most naturally nutrient-rich foods out there. A three-ounce serving of lean beef is an excellent source of protein, zinc, vitamin B and many other key nutrients. Beef works well in a well-balanced diet, accompanied by fruits and vegetables.”
I’m not sure if the contest is worth all the ink the media is throwing at, but I am sure that meat supplies basic and affordable nutrition. Moreover, producers need to recognize these thinly veiled attempts to change the American consumer’s perceiptions about nutrition that are not based in science. I bitch about the beef check off, but they are earning their keep if they keep the USDA focused on science and off the first lady’s political pet project.