02/08/2013 08:49 am ET Updated Apr 10, 2013

My MyPlate Experiment, Day Four: Hitting My Stride & Another Restaurant Snag

I'm finally more than halfway through my MyPlate experiment, and I feel like I'm hitting my stride. I basically understand how the USDA's serving sizes and guidelines work, so I'm able to put together a more or less cogent menu without planning it super-scrupulously in advance. And I don't feel particularly deprived or angry about what I'm eating. (Though I also don't feel like I'm surging with health -- if anything, I feel a little queasy from all the carbs and dairy.)

In fact, I really hit only one snag today: restaurants. I mentioned yesterday that it was hard to incorporate (or even think about) restaurants using the USDA model. But on Wednesday, I was able to circumvent that by going to a restaurant that was unusually transparent about nutrition and ingredients.

I had no such luck Thursday night, when I was meeting one of my best friends for dinner in the East Village. Initially, my friend had suggested that we go to notoriously health-conscious vegan restaurant Angelica's Kitchen, out of deference to my experiment this week. But when we found out there was a 45-minute wait for a table, we opted instead for an excellent Serbian restaurant called Kafana.

By this point in the day, I still had plenty of calories to spare, and lots of meat and grains I needed to eat, so I wasn't too worried about how to order. But then once my food arrived, I realized that I didn't have any way of accurately measuring serving sizes, much less things like the amount of oil they'd used in the preparations. I eyeballed it and made do, but I wish the USDA had made it easier, somehow, to apply its guidelines to restaurants.

To some extent, this is a trivial complaint that's specific to this strange experiment and the city where I live. But a quarter of Americans eat dinner out at least three nights a week, and many more eat lunch away from the the home. So for the USDA to systematically ignore this facet of the American eating system is risky.

A Week Of MyPlate