It is no secret that Americans are overweight and out of shape, which makes guidelines for good nutrition more important than ever. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) team up every so often to revise the dietary guidelines for Americans that rely on science, and not health gimmicks or fads, to form the basis for a healthy lifestyle.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the HHS Kathleen Sebelius recently announced the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government’s evidence-based nutritional guidance to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. Because more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, the 7th edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.
“The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are being released at a time when the majority of adults and one in three children is overweight or obese and this is a crisis that we can no longer ignore,” Vilsack said. “These new and improved dietary recommendations give individuals the information to make thoughtful choices of healthier foods in the right portions and to complement those choices with physical activity. The bottom line is that most Americans need to trim our waistlines to reduce the risk of developing diet-related chronic disease. Improving our eating habits is not only good for every individual and family, but also for our country.”
The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focus on balancing calories with physical activity, and encourage Americans to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains.
“Helping Americans incorporate these guidelines into their everyday lives is important to improving the overall health of the American people,” Sebelius said. “The new Dietary Guidelines provide concrete action steps to help people live healthier, more physically active and longer lives.”
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include 23 Key Recommendations for the general population and six additional Key Recommendations for specific population groups, such as women who are pregnant. Key Recommendations are the most important messages within the Guidelines in terms of their implications for improving public health. The recommendations are intended as an integrated set of advice to achieve an overall healthy eating pattern. To get the full benefit, all Americans should carry out the Dietary Guidelines recommendations in their entirety.
It is no surprise that meats are an important part of the dietary recommendations. The American Meat Institute (AMI) said that the new guidelines affirm that meat and poultry products are important components of a balanced, healthy diet.
“It is noteworthy that the government’s previous recommendation that consumers eat five to seven ounces from the meat, poultry and beans group will remain unchanged. This makes sense because the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s documents show that the meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts group is the only group that is consumed in the recommended amount,” said James H. Hodges, AMI executive vice president. “While some people are under the impression that Americans over-consume meat and poultry products, the most recent nutrition data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show that on average, men consume 6.9 ounces of meat and poultry per day and women consume 4.4 ounces.”
He noted that the Guidelines show that red and processed meats are not over-consumed.
The Institute also applauded the focus on nutrient dense foods that offer more nutrition per calorie than others. According to the Guidelines, “Meat and poultry products are some of the most nutrient dense foods available, are excellent sources of complete protein, iron and zinc and maintain an excellent nutrition per calorie ratio. Complete proteins provide all of the essential amino acids necessary for growth and good overall health.”
Meat and poultry products also can be helpful in achieving the healthy body weight that the committee stressed is a key to good health.
“Studies that have published recently also show that meat satisfies hunger longer, making lean meat and poultry part of a balanced diet that helps metabolize food more efficiently and prevent between-meal snacking that can lead to weight gain,” Hodges said. “These recommendations highlight the long-standing body of science that says in very clear terms that the key to a healthy lifestyle is a balanced diet that includes each of the key food groups, coupled with daily exercise.”
One important theme in the Guidelines was a recommendation to reduce sodium.
“An analysis of the top 20 sodium contributing foods consumed by Americans shows that only three of these foods are meat products or food products that contain meat,” Hodges said. “Still, the meat industry is actively responding with efforts to expand its low and reduced sodium offerings in an effort to meet different nutrition needs.”
More consumer-friendly advice and tools, including a next generation Food Pyramid, will be released by USDA and HHS in the coming months. Below is a preview of some of the tips that will be provided to help consumers translate the Dietary Guidelines into their everyday lives:
• Enjoy your food, but eat less.
• Avoid oversized portions.
• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
• Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals and choose the foods with lower numbers.
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Dairy products remain an important part of the recommended diet in the Guidelines that recommend 3 daily servings of low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products for adults and children nine years and older. For children ages 4-8, the recommendation was increased from 2 to 2.5 servings, and for children ages 2-3, the recommendation remains 2 servings. Most Americans fail to meet these recommendations, even though they have been previously established and supported by independent health organizations. The Guidelines also emphasize the importance of establishing good milk drinking habits at a young age, as those who consume milk at an early age are more likely to do so as adults. Current evidence shows intake of milk and milk products is linked to improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents. In addition, intake of milk and milk products is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and lower blood pressure in adults.
This edition of the Dietary Guidelines comes at a critical juncture for America’s health and prosperity. By adopting the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines, Americans can live healthier lives and contribute to a lowering of health-care costs, helping to strengthen America’s long-term economic competitiveness and overall productivity.
USDA and HHS have conducted this latest review of the scientific literature, and have developed and issued the 7th edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in a joint effort that is mandated by Congress. The Guidelines form the basis of nutrition education programs, Federal nutrition assistance programs such as school meals programs and Meals on Wheels programs for seniors, and dietary advice provided by health professionals.
The Dietary Guidelines, based on the most sound scientific information, provide authoritative advice for people 2 years and older about how proper dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases.
The Dietary Guidelines aid policymakers in designing and implementing nutrition-related programs. They also provide education and health professionals, such as nutritionists, dietitians, and health educators with a compilation of the latest science-based recommendations. A table with key consumer behaviors and potential strategies for professionals to use in implementing the Dietary Guidelines is included in the appendix.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines is available at www.dietaryguidelines.gov.
For more information on dietary guidelines, see www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines and www.healthfinder.gov/prevention.