The definition of a food pattern is the quantities, proportions, variety or combinations of different foods and beverages in diets, and the frequency with which they are habitually consumed, according to the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. This guideline was created primarily for nutrition and health professionals to help Americans make healthy choices to prevent chronic disease. There are no secrets here, common sense and good choices is how it reads. This is the eighth edition that has been published and is a road-map for 2015-2020. This guideline is used to inform the USDA and HHS food programs like the National School Lunch Program.
Do you remember School House Rock type public service announcements? These PSA’s were designed to provide a memorable, informative education while watching our favorite cartoons or after-school specials. In the small amount of time the commercial would run, we learned how a bill becomes a law, what is a conjunction, and hankering for a hunk of cheese. The food pyramid was easy to understand and we always knew to finish our vegetables before leaving the table. I mean, how many times did you think, “when I grow up, I won’t have to eat all of my veggies while I run around with scissors!”
I was also thin, energetic, and a lot less cynical. I enjoyed a steak over a chicken breast and macaroni and cheese was manna from heaven. I also played outside, rode a bicycle, and went on nature hikes. As I got older, I made my children eat vegetables but not as many, especially not fresh. Lots of canned green beans and corn were on our menu. I have learned to cook many things over the years but did not start incorporating the fresh vegetables and fruits until recently. I needed to go back to basics school.
To change a pattern, we have to use parts of our brain to grow new neurons to connect with existing ones forming new pathways. Harvard psychologist, William James wrote in his 1890 book The Principles of Psychology, “In most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster and will never soften again.” He believed a personality becomes fixed after a certain age because we use the same neural pathways again and again until they are stuck and deeply embedded. Newer studies have shown that deliberate repetition and practice can create new connections but they are fragile. Motivation, willpower, and self-control will need to be used to achieve the goal of a new pattern. In an article from Fast Company, Tara Swart, a lecturer at MIT, states “Depending on the complexity of the activity, it could take up to four and a half months to create a new pattern”.
My challenge is to find ways of using more fresh vegetables and fruits to create a pattern of eating nutritional, tasty foods. If a food pattern can be changed by making it connect with existing patterns, the best way I could think of doing it was by taking our common meals and substitute ingredients.
How can I add more fresh vegetables to my meals when I don’t even know what they are? The light green bulb with stalks and leaves in the picture was an interesting item that I could not identify, nor could the young man in the produce section. Unidentified Fruits and Vegetables or UFV are starting to haunt me and has me questioning my culinary prowess. There are several places that sell these UFV’s but what are they? What do they taste like? Do they have any nutritional value? By accident, flipping through a vegetable book, I was able to identify the UFV, it is a kohlrabi. I am sure we will rename it to suit our needs. As in any problem that needs to be solved, troubleshooting techniques should be applied. I have listed below the standard troubleshooting tips for solving my culinary challenge.
- Identify and duplicate the problem – Diabetes Type 2, High Cholesterol, Overweight, etc. √
- Establish a theory of probable cause – A half century of bucking the food and exercise system √
- Test the theory to determine cause – Take blood sugar readings to determine what foods increase the numbers √
- Act – Initiate Lifestyle Change Plan √
- Test and Prevent – Start working the above step √
- Report – Document, document, document!
Step 4 required more than just announcing a change needed to be made. The time and effort that I happily expend taking care of my soulmate requires focus and knowledge. It is a good thing I am a foodie! I have established the UFV School of Food Data Technology for my education. At UFV, the never-ending thirst for knowledge is quenched by finding great ways of adding needed nutrition to our meals without raising the dreaded blood sugar readings.
Mr. Solberg started with an A1c of 11.5 in October of 2015. His current result has him down to 5.7 as of June 2016. With the help of prescribed medicine, diet, and exercise, he has lost over 40 lbs and feels great. The consequences for not making a change are not readily apparent until it becomes a burden on the patient and their family. This disease has become an epidemic in our country and I believe it will spiral out of control if left unchecked.
Food is fun and I love to cook. I also enjoy discussing food and preparation techniques so I will share with you on our journey the successes and failures. Please comment anytime!