10 Questions for Brian Wansink

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GL: What consumer food issues or behaviors are at the top of your list to tackle in the coming year?

BW: School lunches. The key to making kids eat a healthier school lunch is to get them to choose [the healthier option]. We started the Smarter Lunchroom initiative [on Facebook] and at SmarterLunchrooms.org. We can get kids to eat healthier simply by changing the cues and by making it convenient to do healthy things while making them think twice about doing things that are less healthy. For example, moving the fruit bowl [closer] or labeling vegetables—as in, calling carrots “X–ray–vision carrots.”

GL: You recently served as executive director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, which oversaw the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. What can you tell me about the new plate that’s taken the place of the food pyramid?

BW: The plate changed with the administration change. We made a lot of progress on the plate during the previous administration, except for the last month. It wasn’t pushed through because it wasn’t a priority—there were more pressing things. Under the new administration, they changed the name of one section. We called it “Meat and Beans,” and they changed that to “Protein.” It wasn’t a good change. There’s protein in milk, there’s protein in bread, there’s protein in rice. People don’t eat ingredients. People don’t say, “I think I want to have some niacin tonight.”

GL: What’s your personal food vice or indulgence?

BW: I have a tremendous ability to meal–stuff. My wife studied at the Cordon Bleu in Paris. I love great cuisine! When I’m around great food I don’t want to eat a little bit of it. Fortunately, all the rest of my meals are defense [against overeating], and I exercise.

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