Last week, the USDA introduced a new symbol for healthy eating to replace the decades-old food pyramid long considered ineffectual. The new graphic, called “MyPlate,” replaces the pyramid with a plate-shaped pie chart demonstrating the importance of making fruits and vegetables at least half of your caloric intake. Still, it seems unlikely that a pie chart will encourage healthier choices in a media climate in which someone like Man v. Food's Adam Richman is considered something of a folk hero.
1. “Ham 'N' Eggs,” A Tribe Called Quest
In this track off its debut album, the '90s rap group offers healthier alternatives to a breakfast of ham and eggs. The song's chorus declares the group's aversion to a high-cholesterol diet, but it's never preachy or self-serious, as rappers Q-Tip and Phife Dawg admit to their own guilty pleasures. It's all right to enjoy the occasional steak as long as you're eating your collard greens and red beets. In the final seconds of the song, the chorus reveals its cheekiness by conceding that not all of us can give up our breakfast protein.
The rapper Daniel Dumile (a.k.a. MF Doom) has been no stranger to oddball concepts and alter egos. In his 2004 record Mm.. Food, he employs food-related metaphors and puns to demonstrate his dextrous wordplay and verbal tics. The opening track “Beef Rapp” is at once about the ills of fried foods and rap beefs. The comparison is peculiar, but Dumile knows how to keep it interesting.
When he's not angry about counter-revolutionaries or neoliberal agendas, Immortal Technique picks his fights with opponents who are no less political than militant vegans and vegetarians. The irascible rapper is all about defending personal freedoms, and in this song, he seems to have had some run-ins with a PETA canvasser or two who provoked his rage.
A weed reference is usually obligatory for the Houston rapper, but this song's not his usual tribute to doobies and blunts. The Dude takes a girl out to dinner and pulls out his masculine charm, but unfortunately his servings of collard greens and lima beans are rather gross and discomfiting for his date.
Cee Lo Green's musical alma mater helped to popularize Southern hip-hop for a mainstream audience. The title track to the group's debut record espouses the good that a home-cooked meal of “fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens” can do for a weary soul. Sure, it's not the healthiest of meals, but sometimes what is eaten is not as important as how and where it's prepared.
During the '80s, the Fat Boys released a string of albums full of their trademark humor and self-deprecation. They were fat and unashamed to admit it. In this paean to overeating, the food-loving trio enters a buffet and indulges all of their meat-based appetites. What was a long-running joke for the group and its fans turned into tragedy when Fat Boy member Buff Love (aka The Human Beat Box) died of a heart attack at the age of 28.
The social justice-minded duo is unlikely to see eye to eye with the U.S. government on most things, but in regards to healthy eating, they can agree. This clear-sighted song about the importance of physical well-being makes a case for better eating: “They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy / My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy / 'Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways / We got to start taking better care of ourselves.”