Dear Members of the USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee:
I’m writing to thank you and all the members of the previous committees for your tireless work on the USDA’s dietary guidelines. You’ve made my job as a parent quite a bit easier.
I came to that conclusion yesterday when my wife and I joined our seven-year-old for lunch in her school cafeteria. My wife sends our girls to school with lunches she packs at home … usually some kind of meat or meaty stew accompanied by cheese sticks, carrots, apple slices, or olives. She also puts small bottles of water in their lunchboxes.
Most of the other kids eat lunches prepared in the cafeteria, which of course is required to follow the USDA guidelines. Yesterday’s government-approved lunch consisted of chicken nuggets (battered and deep-fried in vegetable oil), macaroni and cheese, mandarin oranges in some kind of syrup, and a drink. Some kids chose juice boxes for their drinks, others chose 1% or 2% milk, but the most popular choice was the 1% chocolate milk.
Naturally, I was horrified to see kids eating a meal consisting primarily of processed grains and sugar, and only slightly less horrified to realize that the meal was nearly devoid of natural fats. When I observed how many kids seemed to prefer the chocolate milk, my wife informed me that since the new USDA guidelines call for restricting fat even more, the school will soon limit its milk offerings to 1% white milk, skim white milk, and skim chocolate milk.
That’s when I realized what a huge favor you’ve done me.
Like any other father, I want my kids to succeed in life. I want them to win scholarships, attend the best colleges, and excel in whatever fields they choose to study. According to their teachers, they’re both bright girls. However, their school district is the highest-ranked in Tennessee and also one of the higher-ranked districts in the country, which means there are a lot of other bright kids in their classes. The competition to win scholarships some years from now ought to be fierce — but I don’t think it will be, at least not by the time my girls are in high school.
In an otherwise equal competition, there are two ways to gain an advantage: make yourself stronger, or find a way to weaken your opponents. We’re helping our daughters become as strong and as smart as we possibly can, but that may not be enough. Luckily for us, your dietary guidelines will simultaneously weaken the competition … sort of like a federally-funded Tonya Harding conspiring to give a whack to Nancy Kerrigan’s knees.
A growing human brain needs plenty of natural saturated fat and cholesterol, which is why Mother Nature was smart enough to put rather a lot of both in breast milk. Unlike their classmates, my girls have no idea what skim milk tastes like, because we never buy any. In fact, my daughters sometimes ask for extra cream in their whole milk, and we give it to them. They also eat lots of Kerry Gold butter, egg yolks, bacon fat, and marrow fat whenever my wife makes a stew.
Your committee and the previous committees have scared most parents away from serving kids these amazingly nutritious foods, which means my girls will have an advantage in cognitive development — especially now that you’ve instructed schools to remove what little natural fat was left in the milk. It may take some time for the difference in cognitive development to manifest, but the high concentrations of grains and fructose in the government-approved meals are already working to our benefit. While my girls are both alert and calm in class, other kids are already exhibiting signs of hyperactivity or difficulty concentrating.
When my seven-year-old was a toddler, she had occasional play dates with a boy her age who struck me as bright at the time. The boy’s mother served him fruit-spread sandwiches and juice for lunch and proudly informed us that she kept the boy on a low-fat diet. We learned recently that the boy — now a seven-year-old — is in a special class at school because he’s been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Multiply him by several million, and you can see why I’m confident your dietary guidelines are giving my daughters a leg up on the academic competition. I don’t expect all kids who follow your recommended diet to be quite so hampered, but frankly, even a minor deceleration in cognitive growth will push my girls that much higher on the curve.
And if for some reason my daughters don’t reach the top academically, I think it’s possible they’ll nonetheless surpass their peers physically and win some kind of athletic scholarship. The kids in my daughter’s second-grade class are all lean at this point, but when I looked over to where the fifth-graders were eating, I saw several examples of what just a few extra years of a government-approved diet can accomplish. It’s kind of depressing to see 11-year-old girls with pretty faces and protruding bellies, but when I reminded myself that young women with fatty livers aren’t going to beat my daughters out of starting positions on the college track or basketball teams, my spirits were lifted.
So again, my sincere thanks for all the work you put into the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. I don’t know how much interaction you have with similar committees in other countries, but I urge you to do whatever you can to promote these guidelines around the world. After all, my girls will someday need to compete in a global economy.