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  • USDA Launches New C̶a̶r̶b̶-̶O̶-̶M̶a̶t̶i̶c̶ SuperTracker Calorie Counter

    March 01, 2013 | 1 comments

    Toast Rack - Drink Your Carbs: The Drinker's Diet“Lose weight while eating ten slices of bread a day.” As unbelievable as it sounds, this is current dietary advice being pedaled by the US Department of Agriculture.

    To be fair, this specific recommendation was made for Steven who weighs 185 pounds. Andrea weighs considerably less, so she only gets 9 slices of bread per day.

    The ten-slice recommendation is, as far as we can tell, brand spanking new. We assume that we would have noticed it last year when we published our scathing review of USDA Food Recommendations. Our best guess is that it was added in a recent redesign of the MyPlate website.

    If you are unfamiliar with MyPlate, it was an initiative launched by USDA in 2011 to replace the long-standing Food Pyramid. Over five years and two million dollars were spent on the project. At the unveiling, First Lady Michelle Obama gave the least inspiring speech of any Obama in history: “When it comes to eating, what’s more useful than a plate? What’s more simple than a plate? The new design is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods we are eating.” Our reaction was, “That’s supposed to be a plate? It’s looks more like a Trivial Pursuit playing piece being orbited by a racquetball.”

    • MyPlate Logo - Drink Your Carbs - Alcohol and Weight Loss Guide.

    The food recommendations behind MyPlate were shockingly similar to those of the Pyramid it replaced. The USDA still endorsed a diet containing quantities of grains and starches so large that their sheer bulk was likely to limit fresh fruits and vegetables. MyPlate continued the pyramid’s fairytale definition of “vegetable” in which a cup of chopped white potatoes is 100% equivalent to a cup of broccoli or spinach. We have to assume that this equivalency continued to be promoted at the insistence of a Senior Senator from Idaho.

    • Fact: USDA nutritional advice has shifted dramatically over the years even if it did not change much between the Pyramid and the Plate. The very first USDA food recommendations were published in 1916. At that time, one of the five food groups American children were encouraged to eat every day was “simple sweets.” (National Archives)

      To be fair, in 1916 the USDA was trying to solve the problem of people not eating enough calories. Malnutrition rather than obesity was the concern of the day.

    MyPlate’s most recent makeover was not publicized. The First Lady made no public appearances. They didn’t even bother to announce it on their own blog. All we know is that we visited the USDA website last week and discovered that the MyPlate logo had been reduced to the size of a postage stamp. The site is now dominated by an on-line calorie counter called SuperTracker.

    • Question: Are we the only people who think SuperTracker is poorly named? To us, it sounds like some paranoia-inducing, secret government program.

      “I know this sounds crazy, but check out the back of any dollar bill. You see that eye at the top of the pyramid? SuperTracker uses that eye to watch your every move. They are literally spying on us from inside our own wallets!”

    The new pitch is simple. Religiously record every morsel that passes your lips in the SuperTracker database and stop eating the moment you hit your daily calorie limit. This represents a monumental shift from the USDA’s historical Food Group and Serving related recommendations. “Consuming fewer Calories than expended will result in weight loss[,]” the new SuperTracker explains. “This can be achieved over time by eating fewer Calories, being more physically active or best of all, a combination of the two.”

    We never imagined agreeing with the USDA on anything. We have long argued that all successful dieting comes down to calories in vs. calories out. Until recently, the USDA consistently avoided calories and focused on food groups and servings. It was as if the type of calories consumed was more important than the quantity.

    • Fact: Some months back, we shared the story of nutritionist Mark Haub. In 2010, Haub undertook a personal experiment wherein for two solid months, two-thirds of his calories came in the form of junk food. And no one can accuse Haub of gaming the system by picking healthier junk food options. He ate foods we would hesitate to throw into our compost bin. The vast majority of his calories came in the form of Cheetos, Little Debbie’s, Sno-Balls, Oreos, Ding Dongs and the like.

      What makes Haub’s diet interesting is that he limited himself to 1800 calories per day. He estimated that before he began the junk food diet, he was consuming 2600 calories per day. In other words, the junk food diet was a dramatic reduction in daily calories even though it was an increase in foods that most of us would rank somewhere between unhealthy and outright harmful.

      If the kind and quality of calories are more important than the number of calories consumed, Haub should have continued putting on weight. Instead, he lost 27 pounds over the course of his two-month experiment. There is nothing special or magic about his diet. Any diet that restricted his calories to the same level would have yielded similar results.

    We are thrilled that the USDA has joined the world of the calorie aware. Of course, we still differ in our approaches to calorie reduction. SuperTracker is an on-line food journal that keeps a running tally of daily calories consumed. The DYC approach relies on a Food List detailing foods to be eaten, limited and avoided. Eating according to the DYC Food List results in a similar reduction of calories but without the tyranny of having to research and record everything you eat.

    • Fact: Drink your Carbs is unique in that we allow dieters to continue drinking alcohol. This occasionally generates controversy from people who assume that we do not know that alcohol contains calories. Recent accusations include us being “in denial,” “complete morons” and promoters of “the worst idea I have ever heard.” The ‘worst idea ever’ guy has apparently never taken a history class.

      We are fully aware of the calories in alcohol. The whole point of DYC is that these calories must be burned and/or offset. If you add alcohol to your diet and make no other changes you will increase your calorie intake. That’s why DYC requires exercise and dietary changes that eliminate low-nutrition, high-calorie foods. By exchanging sugars, starches and other heavily processed foods for lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables it is easy to eliminate enough calories to allow for both drinking and dieting.

    As advocates for the idea that it is possible to diet while continuing to drink alcohol, we accept that it is equally possible to cut calories while simultaneously eating ten pieces of bread a day. It merely requires eliminating enough other calories to make room. It can be done. We’re just not sure why anyone would want to do it.

    • Fact: Most commercial breads dials in between 80 and 100 calories per slice. White bread and wheat bread are not significantly different in this regard. So the USDA requirement that half Steven’s slices come in the form of whole grain bread makes little caloric difference. In other words, SuperTracker allows Steven between 800 and 1000 calories a day from what they refer to as the “Grains Group.”

      Allow us to put this into DYC perspective. A full bottle of wine dials in at around 550 calories. Two pints of Guinness represent 420 calories. A shot of tequila is around 70 calories. In order to match the calories in his bread allotment, Steven would need to drink all of these. Consuming 1000 calories in alcohol is not easy and would likely be hangover inducing. If you manage to pull it off, you are probably no longer fulfilling the DYC exercise requirement. We freely acknowledge that one of the reasons we require exercise is to place a natural limit on the amount of alcohol drinkers can imbibe.

      Lose the bread. Keep drinking reasonable amounts of alcohol. Save calories. Simple.

    Steven’s SuperTracker recommendations further allow “empty calories” of up to 596 per day. These calories are defined as, “Calories from food components such as added sugars and solid fats that provide little nutritional value.” It is worth noting that these calories are on top of Steven’s bread ration. This leaves roughly 1600 calories—half of Steven’s permitted 3200 calories per day—left for healthy, nutritionally dense foods. If we wanted to limit ourselves to only 1600 nutritionally dense calories per day we would have to start skipping lunch.

    • Fact: There is no requirement that Steven eat his entire grain/bread allotment or that he consumes all of his permitted empty calories. He could choose to spend those calories elsewhere. This does not, however, make the USDA recommendation more reasonable.

      Look at it this way: telling people they are allowed to consume ten pieces of bread but should actually stop sooner is like printing “Contains 2 Servings” on the label of a candy bar and expecting people to stop chewing halfway through.

    We welcome the USDA’s acknowledgement of the importance of calories. We honestly believe that this is a huge step in the right direction. It took nearly 100 years for the USDA to move from recommending sweets to recommending calorie reduction. Hopefully the next few years will see recognition that simple carbs should be further reduced in favor of more nutritionally dense fare. Some day they may even figure out that the calories in alcohol are actually lower—and thus easier to offset—than in most of the empty calorie foods they currently endorse. Until then, there will be DYC.


    From Steven’s SuperTracker Plan:

    Screenshot From MyPlate SuperTracker- Drink Your Carbs Alcohol and Diet Guide.

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Comments

  1. Paleo rox 11:11pm, 05/31/2013

    I STRONGLY I love Paleo… Ive been on it for 6 months and have noticed such great positive changes.
    ... I strongly recommend this toanyone I started off by watching this youtube vid for oustanding recipes!
    !! watch this video trust me

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