January 5, 2016
Is your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier or lose weight? Forget the trendy, new fad diet, the basic advice of tracking foods and calories and incorporating regular exercise has remained the same for decades. Case and point – meet Kernel Beard.
In the early 1970s, the Kansas Wheat Commission rolled out their own dietary guidance. Developed by Virginia Toews Stucky, a registered dietician, the dietary promotion around the personal experience and advice of Kernel Beard, an anthropomorphic head of wheat, his doctor and his dietician wife D.W.
In a striking parallel to today’s over-crowded dieting bonanza, the diet “was produced out of the concern over the elimination of bread from diets as a result of food faddism, misinformation, or the simple convenience of cutting out bread servings to save calories,” according to Kansas Gold, the historical book detailing the first 50 years of the Kansas Wheat Commission.
The diet plan itself, developed by Stucky, was a points-based system. The program recommended a person eat a certain number of points per day, depending on age and weight. The total number of points corresponded to the total number of calories, with each point representing roughly 75 calories.
For example, a single slice of bread, two graham crackers or one tortilla each would count as one point. A pancake counted as 1.5 points, but a waffle counted as three points. An iced doughnut or a cupcake with no frosting each counted as two points. In all, the program’s daily food guide recommended at least four servings of breads or cereals a day.
Stucky’s original calorie point booklet “Nutrition for the Nation” was adapted to include the Kernel Beard character. In his “private diary,” the fictional Kernel experienced the same challenges of today’s dieters – plentiful holiday treats, stress eating during busy times at work and struggling with recovering from cheating on his diet.
According to “The Loves of Kernel Wheat,” “As you read this diary, you will probably see yourself. You see how the Kernel solves his problems, meets his daily temptations and takes his own responsibility with the assistance of a buddy.”
Stucky, a well-recognized nutritional expert in Kansas, produced a series of pamphlets and educational materials that she shared in workshops across the state of Kansas. The promotions eventually ended when Stucky moved out of state and the booklet and associated materials are no longer in print.
For today’s health seekers, the specific points values and recommendations for the Kernel Beard promotion are now a bit out-of-date. For example, the body weight chart tops out at 154 pounds for women, 220 for men. But, the basic advice of eating all foods in moderation, tracking the value of foods eaten and incorporating regular exercise is timeless. In the end, the answer to weight loss or healthier eating does not lie in any gimmick, even a wheat-themed one, but in holding yourself accountable for the food you eat.
As the Kernel’s wife D.W. recommended, “You’ll whip your problem when you learn to eat to live, not live to eat.”
by Julia Debes