I think I was in Grade 4 when I was first introduced to the topic of food and nutrition in a subject called “Health.” Health before nutrition involved taking a clean handkerchief, putting it on the desk, and putting our hands on top of the handkerchief with our palms down. The object of the exercise was to prove three things: that we owned a handkerchief, we washed our hands at least once that week, and to show that we trimmed our nails.

Health always resulted in a bad report card for me. I spread dirt and grease over my hands as if it were pudding, I chewed my nails because long division made me nervous, and the closest thing I had to a handkerchief was a square of toilet paper I pinched from the washroom.

Then came nutrition – something I could relate to. Our teacher, the delightful (if not tyrannical) Miss Terwilliger introduced the topic of food groups. She promised that if we ate food from each food group each day, we would have a “Balanced Diet.”

She distributed a guide called The Food Pyramid which showed all of the food groups in a manner that displayed the food we should eat most of at the bottom, and the ones that were least important  at the top.

Then the fun started. Miss Terwilliger distributed a stack of Good Housekeeping magazines and child-safe scissors and asked us to cut out pictures of representatives of each groups and pasting them on the pyramid. That’s called inspired teaching. She stumbled on a method of getting us so involved in the project that we were actually well behaved.

I found a tomato and pasted it to the fruit section where I lost marks because she mistakenly thought it was a vegetable. Then I found a turkey and pasted it on the meat level next to poultry. The problem was that I got hungry and started eating the paste. Now, when I cook Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner for the family, I get the taste of paste in my mouth.

Paste, as you might imagine, is not normally considered one of the major food groups. Grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and protein (meat, fish, eggs etc.) are. Within them are the makings of a balanced diet.

To have a balanced diet, one needs to eat carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, mineral sales, and fibre.

Carbohydrates are important because that is where most of our energy comes from. It is generally in the form of starch This is found in potato, rice, spaghetti, yams, bread and cereals. Our digestive system turns all this starch into another carbohydrate called glucose. Glucose is carried around the body in the blood and is used by our tissues as a source of energy (Purchon, 1997)

Proteins are responsible for growth and cell repair. They are large molecules that we turn into amino-acids by the digestive system. There are over 20 different amino-acids that our bodies turn back into protein using DNA which contains the information about how to make proteins. Our cells get their amino-acids from the blood.

Fats are used as a source of energy: they are also stored beneath the skin helping to insulate us against the cold. Do not think that by avoiding fat in your diet you will stay thin and elegant! If you eat too much carbohydrate and protein, you will convert some of it into fat, so you will put on weight. You must balance the amount of energy containing foods with the amount of energy that you use when you take exercise.  Fats also contain fat-soluble vitamins we need.  (Purchon, 1997) If there is an excess of carbohydrate of protein, the body will convert it to fat.

Vitamins are needed in small qualitites. They are different, and they all have different uses in the body. Here they are:

  • Vitamin A: Eyesight
  • Vitamin B: Strength
  • Vitamin C: Helps the body repair itself
  • Vitamin D: Made in your skin in the sunlight, needed for absorbing calcium for the bones
  • Vitamin E: Reproduction and healing

(After Purchon, 1997)

Mineral Salts  are required in small quantities to help with all the chemical reactions that happen in the body.  Here are some of the important ones:

  • Iron: Important part of the blood that carries oxygen to the body’s cells
  • Calcium: for teeth bones and muscles
  • Sodium: Required for many chemical reactions – especially in nerves
  • Iodine: Makes a hormone call thyroxin

 (After Purchon, 1997)

Fibre is composed of cellulose – a component of cell walls. Cows and horses and goats can digest cellulose, but we can’t.  Nevertheless, we need it to remain regular. It keeps everything moving along right to the toilet. It’s Draino for the lower intestinal tract. If you skip the roughage, you may have trouble in your bowels and rectum.

If these items are the requirements of a balanced diet, the food pyramid shows which foods contain them. This was devised in 1992 by the US Department of Agriculture to try to simplify ways of getting a balanced diet. It didn’t help much.  It was based on questionable science and hadn’t changed in over a decade although the science had. There was still too much obesity shortening life expectancy. (Khanna, 2010)

In 2005, the USDA unveiled Mypyramid which you can find at It is made up of a a pyramid with colors representing the different food groups on one face, and a dude running up the side of the pyramid to remind us that we need a little exercise from time to time. Mypyramid has an interesting interactive feature that allows you to enter your age, sex, weight and height along with how many hours of exercise you get in a week. You also select whether you wish to maintain that weight or reduce. When you push the button, it gives you an indication of what foods and quantities you should eat in the course of a day. This is good. It makes you think about food. Go to and find out for yourself. The more thinking you do, the healthier you will eat. (Khanna, 2010)

If you’re still thinking, you might have noticed that the guide was designed by the USDA. This may be a source of controversy. For example, there is nothing in science that says everyone should drink three cups of milk every day. Some people cannot drink milk as they’re lactose intolerant. Others may not like it. It certainly wouldn’t hurt the dairy farmers. (Khanna, 2010)

It mentions bread, but it doesn’t mention that some grains are simply more nutritious.

To make up for the shortcomings in Mypyramid, The Harvard School of Public Health devised a pyramid that offers more alternatives and options.  For example, rather than having grains lumped together, it shows that there would likely be more nutritional value in choosing chicken or fish than a steak. It also suggests there is more nutritional value in selecting a whole grain (with the fibre still on) than a bleached (or white) grain – even if the grain is fortified.

In short, it steers you away from junk food.

Instead of magazines and paste, How about making a snack?

Roasted Chickpeas Recipe

Makes 4 servings

Top of Form

Chickpeas are oven roasted and seasoned to taste for a delicious high fiber snack


12 ounce chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 dash salt (optional)
1 dash garlic salt (optional)
1 dash cayenne pepper (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  2. Blot chickpeas with a paper towel to dry them. In a bowl, toss chickpeas with olive oil, and season to taste with salt, garlic salt, and cayenne pepper, if using. Spread on a baking sheet, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until browned and crunchy. Watch carefully the last few minutes to avoid burning.
  3. Yum


Jetvig, S. (2010). “Exploring the USDA Food Pyramid.”



Khanna, Mona (2010) “USDA Food Pyramid Explained”

Purchon, N. (1997) “A Balanced Diet.”

Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby, BC, Canada where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at or at or at 604-464-4195.  If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia.



  1. Sharon Says:

    Good job, Mike. A lot of information given in a conversational tone. I hope they pay you well.


    […] Read more… […]

  3. What do you know about the Flat Belly Diet? Have you tried it? Says:

    […] THE FIXIN'S OF A BALANCED DIET « SpinDoctorResumes […]

    • mikebroderick Says:

      Generally, it’s a hoax. There is a balancing act between calories in and calories out. If the calories in is greater than the calories out, there is less going into the production of fat. The best flat belly act is to make sure the calories out (through work and exercie) is greater thatn calories in (via eating). Eat sme yogurt and do a sit up!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: