Connecting Dots the Size of Small FistsBy Gail S. Bower
A chart accompanying an advertorial in the October 2007 issue of the New York Times Magazine spells out the food group portions we should be eating on a daily basis. It's a perfectly nice chart. It tells us such details as how many servings of fruits and vegetables to eat if your caloric intake is 2,000 a day (4-5 servings per day each); that your grain intake (6-8 portions per day) may include a slice of bread or a half of cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal; and that if you eat a mere 1,600 calories per day, don't even think about sweets. (It goes on to list sample serving sizes if you can eat sweets and if you're among the lucky people eating 2,000 calories a day who are allowed up to 5 sweet servings per week: 1 tbsp. sugar, 1 tbsp. jelly or jam, 1/2 cup sorbet or ices, 1 cup lemonade.)
I don't know about you, but I don't know what to do with this information. I'm pretty smart and reasonably receptive to information about my health. But what good does raw data about portion control do me?
Do I just line my counter with all these portions each morning and eat my way through them? Does anyone actually measure food portions? Who has time to eat 4 or 5 fruits and 4 or 5 vegetables every single day? Actually, who could keep a kitchen stocked with all this food, much less keep it fresh? Frankly, this chart pretty much strips the joy of eating for me. I feel like a human dietary failure just looking at it.
The authors (the American Heart Association) have made a mistake that many organizations make, particularly in newsletters and regular communication pieces. They have failed to connect the dots. The nice chart and the article it accompanies intend to provide helpful information to improve readers' health, but they have failed to help readers integrate and use this information.
Nonprofit organizations have valuable knowledge to share, important stories to tell, and great news to deliver. But often they deliver it like raw data.
OK. While you're thinking about that, I'm going to go find 1 medium fruit, roughly baseball-size. It's time for another fruit serving.