If you’re wondering about the optimal ratios of foods to feed your kids, look to the Bento Box, not the Food Pyramid!

I recommend the new Bento Box over the classic Food Pyramid (what we’ve seen since we were kids) – or even the government’s newest food icon, the 2011 MyPlate – for several reasons.  For example, the food pyramid shows sparing use of fat, and the MyPlate doesn’t even recognize fats.  GOOD fats, though, are what fuels little brains!  (And your brain, too.)  

There’s another difference. Look at the carbohydrate ratios.  In the Bento Box, carbohydrates represent the smallest ratio of the box – about 1/16th of the box – whereas in the Food Pyramid and MyPlate, it is the largest and 1/4th of food emphasis, respectively.  The reason I don’t agree with this emphasis on carbohydrates is simple.  Americans have been relying on carbohydrates as their main food source, a la the Food Pyramid, and that’s why America now has an obesity epidemic.

Sure, carbs are not the only reason.  The combination of limited exercise, stress, and consumption of sugary and processed foods are all reasons for the obesity epidemic.  I am by no means saying carbohydrates are bad.  They are an important source of quick energy that we need; however, carbohydrates ultimately turn into sugar.  If you don’t exercise regularly, all the carbohydrates you eat in food, along with the sugary foods most Americans (particularly children!) consume, will turn into excess weight around the middle.  This is the source of many chronic health problems we see today in this country, even in children.

In the Bento Box, vegetables and protein take up almost a full quarter of the plate each, with the vegetables leading by just a margin.  In the Food Pyramid, these two categories take up a much smaller portion.  In MyPlate, each take up a quarter of the plate each, but it’s the insistence of the 1/4 grains allocation that ultimately makes this food icon less than ideal. 

A note about dairy. Although all food icons include dairy, note how it is relatively small to the whole picture.  Please remember this.  It should stay the smallest  – or better yet, practically none – on the plate.  Dairy does not necessarily provide the calcium we need for strong bones (as the dairy industry would have us believe).  Very important to so many chronic health problems we see in children today, like asthma, eczema and allergies, is that dairy (along with carbs), is associated with inflammatory conditions in the body. What are the two food groups most American kids love to eat?  Dairy and bread.  (If you want to start going dairy and carb – or gluten – free, read my article on it from my 8 Part Series on Healthy, Happy Eating for the Whole Family.) 

To sum up, the Bento Box guide shows more optimal nutrition for growing brains and bodies!

 Bento Box Image:  Courtesy of Whole Foods Market

Bento Box Image:  Courtesy of Whole Foods Market