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Rating my diet: in which I take the Eat Real Quiz, with thought-provoking results

Back when I was in college, I drove my mother crazy whenever midterms and finals approached. I'd call her when I got mired in studying and wail, "I don't know anything! I'm going to fail!"

My parents were glad I was studying hard, but my mom eventually got tired of talking me down out of my pre-exam tree. One spring after my transcript arrived, showing my usual excellent grades, she made me sign a piece of paper that said, "I did fine." After that, she photocopied it and mailed me a copy every term.

I'm telling this embarrassing story for two reasons: One, in spite of my anxiety about exam preparation, I've always liked taking tests. Those quizzes in magazines? I am a total sucker. So, as soon as I learned about the Eat Real Quiz on the Food Day website, I was keen to take it. Two, I discovered by taking the quiz that I STILL WANT AN A, DAGNABBIT.

Food Day is coming on Oct. 24, and the Eat Real Quiz is designed to raise awareness of the value of a healthy diet centered around fruits, vegetables and whole foods. You enter your servings per week for several categories of food; the scores reflect the positive or negative impact of each type of food on your health, the environment and animal welfare.

I eagerly clicked through the questions. I should get a great score, I thought - I have a PhD in nutrition and my mom inculcated healthy eating habits. I answered all the questions and clicked on Grand Total. 73. It was only a B. (Cue the "Wah waaaah" trombone now.)

Scanning back over the scores for each category, I saw an obvious culprit: seven servings per week of refined-grain products such as "white" pasta and rice. That gave me seven negative health points, more than enough to tip me from an A to a B. Could my choice of noodles really be so bad? After all, I also eat at least a serving a day of whole-grain foods, meeting the USDA dietary recommendation to "make half your grains whole" (.pdf).

After a few moments of stewing about the quiz's validity, I looked at the rest of my score and realized the real problem might be my cheese consumption (five servings per week, eight negative health points, plus a few negative points for the environment and animal welfare). But I love cheese; I'm not giving it up! Or maybe it's fruit juice - I don't drink much, but it gets counted with sugary junk and earns negative health points. Or maybe it's beef; my single serving per week earns me negative points in all categories.

Or maybe it's... my brain. Maybe I need to chill out and realize that "I did fine," that my overall diet is indeed pretty healthy, with the good stuff balancing out the not-so-good, and that the point of this quiz is to get people thinking about what they eat. In my case, it worked. Maybe I'll even cook brown rice a little more often, who knows?

I encourage you to try it, too - and feel free to comment below if you learn anything surprising.

Previously: Americans still falling short of national nutritional guidelines, Can a food-tracking app help promote healthy eating habits? and Goodbye, pyramid: USDA unveils MyPlate
Via Center for Science in the Public Interest
Photo by Tesseract84

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