A Visual Guide to Healthy Eating

The Healthy Eating Plate Edges Closer to Perfection

Harvard Health Publications together with experts on nutrition from the Harvard School of Public Health have launched their “Healthy Eating Plate,” a graphic guide for eating the most researched healthy meals. Similar to the US government’s MyPlate, the Healthy Eating Plate is comprehensive and it points to some odd shortfalls from MyPlate.

“Unfortunately, like the earlier U.S. Department of Agriculture Pyramids, MyPlate mixes science with the influence of powerful agricultural interests, which is not the recipe for healthy eating,” said Walter Willett, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition at HSPH. “The Healthy Eating Plate is based on the best available scientific evidence and provides consumers with the information they need to make choices that can profoundly affect our health and well being.”

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If one compares the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate to MyPlate it shows the deficiencies in the government’s guide clearly. MyPlate fails to inform consumers whole grains are simply better for one’s health than refined grains and that protein section also fails to point out that some high-protein foods like fish, poultry, beans and nuts are fat healthier than red and processed meats and it doesn’t delve into beneficial fats. And what it does not distinguish is the difference between potatoes and other vegetables.

Furthermore MyPlate recommends dairy at every meal, even though there is little evidence that high dairy intake protects against osteoporosis but substantial evidence that high intake can be harmful; and it says nothing about sugary drinks. Finally, the Healthy Eating Plate reminds people to stay active, an important factor in weight control, while MyPlate does not mention the importance of activity.

The Healthy Eating Plate could be that much better perhaps by dodging the industries that try and provide us “benefits” to unhealthy food and instead focus on the latest and most advanced scientific research and evidence which clearly shows that a plant-based diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and healthy proteins lowers the risk of weight gain and chronic disease.

Helping the world’s citizens get the best possible nutritional advice is of critical importance to medical practitioners like BIMC as the world faces a burgeoning obesity epidemic.

The sections of the Healthy Eating Guide include vegetables and stress an abundant variety, the more the better. Limited consumption of potatoes is recommended, however, as they are full of rapidly digested starch, which has the same roller-coaster effect on blood sugar as refined grains and sweets. In the short-term, these surges in blood sugar and insulin lead to hunger and overeating, and in the long term, to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic disorders.

Eating fruit of all variety is essential, and no better place than Bali where fruit is so widely available, even your local village will have coconut of which water greatly lowers blood pressure.

My Healthy Plate emphasizes whole grains like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice all available on the island. Unfortunately, also readily available are refined grains, such as white bread and even more so of course, white rice, which acts like sugar in the body and eating too many refined grains can raise the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

All the right healthy proteins like fish, poultry, beans, or nuts, are everywhere in Bali and tofu and tempe are no exception. But like the protein that is good for you there is also an abundance of the harmful, so limit red meat and avoid processed meats especially, since eating even small quantities on a regular basis raises the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and weight gain.

Fortunately most supermarkets here sell olive, canola, and other plant oils for cooking, on salads, and at the table and it’s these healthy fats that reduce harmful cholesterol.

Hydrate with plenty of water when in the tropics; tea, or coffee are even fine (with little or no sugar) and limit milk and dairy (1-2 servings per day) and bottled juice that have those healthy looking labels should be avoided (without saying sugary drinks on a regular basis will certainly harm your health.)

The sizes of the sections suggest approximate relative proportions of each of the food groups to include on a healthy plate. They are not based on specific calorie amounts, and they are not meant to prescribe a certain number of calories or servings per day, since these numbers vary from person to person.

“One of the most important fields of medical science over the past 50 years is the research that shows just how powerfully our health is affected by what we eat. Knowing what foods to eat and in what proportions is crucial for health. The evidence-based Healthy Eating Plate shows this in a way that is very simple to understand,” said Anthony Komaroff, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and editor in chief of Harvard Health Publications.

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BIMC Hospital Nusa Dua
The first hospital in Indonesia with accreditation from Australian Council on Healthcare Standard International  (ACHSI)

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