The Online Omelet

My computer tells me what to eat.

I never thought I would ever cook an egg white omelet.

I mean, really, what’s the point? It’s like eating a sugarless chocolate bar. If I’m making an omelet, I’m going to have my egg and eat the whole thing too. Why deprive myself when it comes to affairs of the stomach?

But there I was last week, making an egg white omelet. And I was doing it all to make the United States Department of Agriculture happy.

You see, the USDA has created a Web site, MyPyramid Tracker, that allows you to enter food intake and physical activity each day; it then analyzes that data to tell you if you’re consuming enough calories and vegetables and such — or too much greasy Chinese takeout, as I am wont to do.

Though health has always interested me, I was never one for calorie counting or withholding Cheetos from myself. Through my fun new friend, I’ve learned I don’t have to do either: it counts for me, and I can have what I want, as long as what I want is balanced and I’m not taking in more calories than the energy I expend. I’m learning about how many grains I should eat in a day, how many grapes equal a fruit portion, how many calories I burn by walking up a hill or slaughtering animals (oddly, both activities are listed in the site’s “physical activity” section)

The best part is that after the USDA analyzes my diet, the site shows me not only a score for various categories of health, but little emoticons: yellow smiley faces, neutral red faces, blue ones with deep frown lines in their faces, scowling at me for forgoing the 2 oz. of whole grain bread I needed to consume last Wednesday in favor of 50 jelly beans. “You’ve had too much saturated fat, Gina,” my blue unhappy USDA face will cluck at me. “Try some grains and 2 cups of vegetables for dinner to redeem yourself.”

This is how I found myself an egg white omelet cook. During the course of the day in question, I had consumed cereal, orange juice, a salad with goat cheese, and (in a moment of weakness) a mini Mr. Goodbar from the bottomless junk food reservoir at work. I was coming up all yellow smiles on the pyramid tracker except for two categories: protein and total calories. How can I get the protein I need today, I mused, without getting too many calories? A light flashed down on me, as if from the heavens. “Gina,” it said. “What about creating an omelet from egg whites?”

So that evening, I found myself learning how to divide the yolk from the white, the good health from the bad. The strange part? An egg white omelet actually tastes pretty good. The stranger part? As I was eating my omelet, I swear I saw a little yellow smiley face out of the corner of my eye, nodding in approval.

UPDATE (5 November 2013): The USDA’s MyPyramid Tracker is now defunct; the site went offline sometime after the agency retired the food guide pyramid in 2011. To replace the MyPyramid site, USDA now offers a website called SuperTracker.

Article © 2006 by Gina Mitchell