Monday, February 7, 2011

Eat more fruit, veggies and whole grains, feds say

If I were a betting woman, I'd bet you didn't know the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases dietary guidelines every five years. These evidence-based guidelines are the cornerstone of our federal nutrition policy, and are also intended to help Americans make informed food choices, promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases and the prevalence of overweight.

The 2010 guidelines have just been released, and the focus is clearly on confronting America's obesity epidemic. The timing is certainly right. Frighteningly, more than one-third of all American kids are overweight or obese. As if that weren't bad enough, more than two-thirds of American adults join them.

The new guidelines place a stronger emphasis than ever before on reducing calorie consumption and increasing activity. Good-bye "Supersize me," hello waistline.

It is the government's hope (and mine, too) that by adopting the recommendations, Americans will live healthier lives and health care costs will diminish, boosting America's productivity and overall economic competitiveness.

The topics I focus on all play a significant part in the 2010 guidelines. That doesn't surprise you, does it? We're talking about vegetables, fruits, whole grain, fat-free and low-fat dairy products and seafood. The suggestions match my own: reduce sodium, saturated and trans fats, sugars and refined grains.

Remember how I always say to avoid products made from oh-so-misleading "enriched" wheat ... and that you should choose "whole grain" foods over "whole wheat?" Well, kudos to the government ... they got all this right.

The new guidelines include 23 general key recommendations for the population as a whole, and six more for special groups such as pregnant women.

In addition, the USDA is releasing some additional health tips in the coming months. No big surprises coming there: Enjoy your food, but eat less. Make half your plate fruit and vegetables. Choose fat-free or low-fat milk. Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

It's not all generic advice, however. There are some very specific suggestions as well, such as reducing sodium intake to 1500 mg or less, per day, if you're over 51. But most of the tips are things I've been telling my clients for years.

It pleases me no end that our government is finally addressing obesity in this report. There are certainly plenty of "quick fixes" and "miracle machines" that get exposure.

Losing weight is not just about eating less, it's about eating correctly. If I've piqued your interest enough to look up the 2010 guidelines, here's a little more of what you'll find:

- Eat dark green, red and orange vegetables.

- Use oils to replace solid fats.

- Eat nutrient-dense foods.

- Choose foods that have more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D.

- Switch up your proteins and be sure to eat fish and white meats.

The guidelines are available online at dietaryguidelines.gov. True food for thought. And if we can keep our kids from incurring the many risks of childhood obesity (including social stigma) then what a worthy pursuit. Setting a good example can work wonders.

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