Where’s The Fat?

While the new USDA graphic is certainly a prettier picture and does convey information with more clarity, they forgot a MAJOR macronutrient group. Where’s the FAT? Fruit and vegetables have very little fat. They are recommending lean meats, which have very little fat. They are recommending low fat dairy which has very little fat. So, where’s the fat in this supposedly healthy diet?

As Marion Nestle PhD. and professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University says (everyone quotes her, so I will as well), “It’s better than the [2005] pyramid but that’s not saying a lot.” (New York Times, Neumann W, 6/2/2011)

In another interview she said, “The Department of Agriculture has a long history of being in bed with the food industry, and this is moving beyond that. It’s not moving as far as I would like, but it’s pretty courageous.” (Los Angeles Times, Khan A, 6/2/2011)

In their explanation about the new visual called “My Plate” the USDA explains each part of the plate and related topics. I find it interesting that they discuss “empty calories.”

Empty Calories

What are “empty calories”?
Currently, many of the foods and beverages Americans eat and drink contain empty calories – calories from solid fats and/or added sugars. Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. For this reason, the calories from solid fats and added sugars in a food are often called empty calories. Learning more about solid fats and added sugars can help you make better food and drink choices.

Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, beef fat, and shortening. Some solid fats are found naturally in foods. They can also be added when foods are processed by food companies or when they are prepared.

They also give a listing of what they mean by solid fats. Butter, tallow, lard and coconut oil are right there on the list. They actually state that these fats are empty calories meaning that they have no nutrition at all.

I’m speechless. I don’t know who they have working there but whoever it is doesn’t even read their own literature, the USDA Nutrient Database. If you click the link, you will see the USDA nutrient breakdown for butter which shows plenty of nutrition: Vitamins A,D,E, K, choline, minerals, etc. Solid (or saturated, heaven forbid they even say the word!) fats are empty calories?  Duh. Furthermore, they lump these above healthy fats with toxic hydrogenated oils and trans fats. Why doesn’t that surprise me?

As Marion Nestle said, “The Department of Agriculture has a long history of being in bed with the food industry….” In this case it is the grain and processed food corporations.

Dr. David Kessler, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner who has campaigned against obesity, still sees a pretty big problem: getting people to start eating what’s on that plate. With rates of obesity and diabetes on the rise, Kessler said, getting people to change their eating habits is a top priority.

“If we could eat meals in the manner that’s being suggested by the new plate, we can reverse this epidemic,” Kessler said.

Really. Really Dr. Kessler.  While they get the idea that sugars are empty calories they are still giving the “party line” about fats. Kessler is beyond dreaming if he thinks eating from My Plate will change the direction American health is going. If anything it will make it worse because more people will actually be able to read it.

What do you think about this? Please let me know.

This post is linked to: Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Sugar-Free Sunday, Midnight Maniac Monday, Mangia Monday, Monday Mania, Mouthwatering Monday, Weekend Carnival, Tempt my tummy Tuesday, Tuesday at the Table, Traditional Tuesday Blog Hop, Tasty Tuesday Tasty Tuesday,  Parade of Foods, What’s on the Menu, Real Food Wednesday, Day2Day Joys, Foodie Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Creative Juice Thursday

Register for Food Renegade's new class Beautiful Babies!ACT NOW! Use Coupon Code BEAUTIFUL20 to save an additional $20.00. This is the ONLY coupon offered for this class and it is good until October 22. Don't delay! Click here to register!

  • June

    Hi Jill –
    Thanks for giving me some ” food” for thought, this morning while having my breakfast. Interesting idea to include fat in the food pyramid but you have targeted a big issue. We have gone away from the idea that ” reducing fat ” is the ticket to losing weight and instead now the focus of most diets is increase of protein that builds muscles. The labels don’t say LOW FAT but now they say HIGH PROTEIN. Even weight watchers has changed from points to protein!
    But no one talks about fat except to get rid of it – or include Omega 3 and supplements to the diet.
    Where does fish and olive oil fit in to the pyramid??

    Thanks for my morning shot of adrenalin – you are better than a cup of coffee!
    Your fan – JUNE

  • http://mutritiousnuffins.blogspot.com/ Meagan

    Where did you find this information? I want to see this for myself… it’s incredible! I can’t believe they would say such things.

  • Kim

    If you click on the “My plate” link above, it says it all there. It is frustrating how misleading it is in that “empty calories” section.

  • http://fondalashay.com/mintchilli Fonda LaShay

    Ah! I agree, that was the first thing I said too!

    It is like I know they think that they are helping. But in America everything is suggested by who is paying the most. I do feel that there is more balance then the previous ones, since there is not such a huge grain area.. but once you get past the visuals and start reading about this one it is just so irritating..

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi June,
    Thanks so much for your comments and support. So true — there has been a change to marketing. As you say, they still dance a round the fat issue. They are afraid to question the “standard.” Not everyone though. Sally Fallon and Mary Enig have been writing and speaking about fat for years. Mary Enig sacrificed her career back in the 1970′s when she blew the whistle on trans fats.

    But to answer your question — I guess fish would fit into the protein portion and olive oil? Your guess is as good as mine.

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Fonda.
    So true. Thanks for your comments. It is a little better — more understandable. I have nothing against fruits and vegetables either. But people can live very well grain-free and most should. But that is the topic for another post!

  • http://momcast.blogspot.com Leanne

    It’s from the Department of Agriculture. Not public health. Agriculture. Is there any wonder that the largest portion on that plate graphic is grains and it’s counterpart vegetables? Things obtained by agriculture?

    Why do Americans let the department in charge of grain growth dictate nutrition advice?

  • http://momcast.blogspot.com Leanne

    PS, there is a paleo plate graphic out there, created by a paleo blogger. It’s much better, though still not perfect.

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Leanne,
    There is also a triangle made by a Weston Price Chapter Leader on this post at:


    Thanks for your comments!

  • http://learningtobeenatural.wordpress.com Rebecca

    I thought the same thing. Excluding a major food, one we can’t live without. How can anyone take this seriously? Okay, then I try to think, where would they put this on the “plate”? It is something we eat on stuff and in stuff so butter on the veggies and grains, whipped cream or coconut milk on the fruit, whole dairy, fatty meats. Need to add fermented foods but I could make a plate look like this with lots of good fats. It’s just too bad that the food advice most people are getting is so far from what will bring them good health.

  • http://alittlebitcrunchyalittlebitrock.blogspot.com/ Mama J

    It really is ridiculous. It’s simple and clean looking, but to a fault.

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Rebecca,
    So true. But what really struck me was the information they give on empty calories. That really is so dangerous.

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    HI Mama J,
    It is much better looking and easier to read…but…
    I love your idea of grilling lettuce –do you put it directly on the grill? What if you have a lot of baby lettuce? I have so much now it is coming out of my ears!

  • Frances Drew

    This is absolutely infuriating! They are spreading disinformation that will damage our children and our culture. The idea that solid fats are empty calories is absurd and easily refutable. And the crazy thing is, most people eat almost none of those solid fats. I don’t know anyone beside myself that cooks with lard, tallow or coconut oil. And few people actually cook with butter as well. How could they say that those are the culprits for obesity? When I see typical fat american eat, they are eating processed foods. Not cream, not butter, not lard, not fatty meats, but processed foods and drinks that often have health claims.

  • Beth

    Check out this PDF of the Healthy 4 Life booklet from WAPF:


    It’s an excellent antidote to the hazardous USDA recommendations.

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Frances,
    So true. Sad but true.

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Beth,
    Yes, I have read this — it’s great! Thanks for the reminder.

  • http://littlefarminthebigcity.blogspot.com/ Betty

    Well said! I have to admit that I do like the new “plate” a lot better than the pyramids of old, but it’s still not the whole picture. Also, like you said, the USDA is pretty deep in the food industry’s back pockets and the guidelines often coincide with some new line of convenience foods. We just stick real food and don’t worry about too much.

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    HI Betty,
    Thanks for your comments. Yes, that makes it much easier!

  • http://www.musingsofahousewife.com Jo-Lynne {Musings of a Housewife}

    I posted about this very same thing last night. But I didn’t read the details of their recommendations so I missed the thing about fats being empty calories. WTH?

    Well, the good news is, no one will pay any more attention to these recommendations than they did to the last ones.

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Jo-Lynne,
    If you click on the topics on their website you will find their recommendations…I put links to that on the post. Unfortunately, since it is so easy to look at people may actually follow it more closely…

  • http://dr-mommagourmet.blogspot.com jamie young

    speechless for sure….. always trying to convey to my college students how important fats are. all the membranes in the body are composed of fat- some hormones are made of fats- we must have fat! i don’t understand why it is so hard to just eat real food. it is NOT expensive or time consuming….. shame shame.

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Jamie,
    Thanks for your comments — that breakfast melt looks delicious!

  • http://fromprocessedtopure.blogspot.com Donna Bauman

    I had the same thought when I saw the new plate… where is the FAT and how is it that if I, a regular American, can find out all this info about how good fats are for you, why are the people in our government not reading this information?? Something is not right in Kansas, Dorothy….

  • http://day2dayjoys.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-toxic-is-your-sunscreen.html Rachel

    Thanks for spreading the word! I guess people “in charge” of deciding this info are not aware that fat is good for us, fat makes up about 60% of your brain and nerves, we need fat to nourish our brains! Fat (the RIGHT kinds) really do make us smarter! :)
    Thanks for linking up with Healthy 2day Wednesdays, you always have informative posts!

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Donna,
    exactly! I love your idea for green ice cubes in smoothies!

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    HI Rachel,
    Thanks for your comments!

  • http://alittlebitcrunchyalittlebitrock.blogspot.com/ Mama J

    Hi Jill,
    Baby lettuce would work great on top of the pizza to wilt but I would use a heartier lettuce if you want to grill directly on the grill grates- such as romaine or radicchio. These are my two hands down favorites. I love putting lettuce in pasta and let it wilt slightly. Baby lettuce would be great for that. A friend just gave me some baby lettuce from her garden and I gave it a quick chiffonade and added it to this quinoa salad….

    ~Mama J

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Mama J,

  • Erin

    I’m not loving it, but I really do like the idea of a plate divided into 4 portions with fruits and vegetables taking up 1/2 the plate. I’m just assuming there is olive oil on my salad, butter on my broccoli, and the grain has a goodly spread of butter on it as well. I don’t care what they recommend, my daughters are still getting full-fat dairy. It is a lovely graphic to help my daughters understand why cheese and bread does not constitute a complete meal.

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Erin,
    Thank you for sharing that. Those of us who “know better” will do just that!

  • http://quickeasycheaphealthy.com Anne @ Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy

    Those were my thoughts exactly when I first read it. And I wonder why dairy gets its own spot? That doesn’t make sense to me, considering it is possible (difficult but possible) to have a very healthy diet without dairy products.

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Anne,
    I guess they didn’t want to leave out the dairy industry entirely.

  • http://realfoodforager.com/2011/06/beware-the-poison-apple/ Beware the Poison Apple — Real Food Forager

    [...] residues by over 90% if you buy only from the clean 15 list. If you are following the new “My Plate” suggestions by the USDA, and filling your plate with lots of fruits and vegetables (5 or [...]

  • http://realfoodforager.com/2011/07/food-manufacturers-go-healthy-not/ Food Manufacturers Go Healthy: NOT! — Real Food Forager

    [...] into their kids.” The problem is that what most people think of as healthy (due to warped USDA guidelines), turns out to be nutrient poor. And foods that are shunned turn out to be [...]