Released a month later than they initially had hoped for, the updated 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have finally been released. Mandated by Congress to be updated every five years, a committee of leading health experts is appointed to look at the latest nutrition science and make science-based recommendations. After reviewing close to 2,000 research articles, these new guidelines are designed to not only help prevent and reduce diet-related chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, but also at the same time, foster good health and a healthy weight among Americans, age two and older.
The Dietary Guidelines are extremely important as they are not only the basis for all federally funded nutrition programs and initiatives such the National School Lunch Program, but they can also heavily influence, with public buy-in, how food companies manufacture their products. In other words, these recommendations may influence how much sodium is in your favorite can of soup, how much sugar is your morning cereal, and if the crackers that you love to snack on are made with whole grains.
While there are numerous recommendations in the new guidelines, there is one, large (sorry for the pun) central theme and concern that is prevalent throughout the entire report: over 65% of Americans, need to reduce their waistline that has been expanding over the last three decades. The most serious concern is for America’s youth as childhood obesity has tripled since the 1980s.
How can Americans implement these new Guidelines? Step by step. The Committee has developed 4 major action steps for Americans:
1) Reduce Overweight and Obesity.
• Reduce excess calories
• Move (see below).
2) Eat a More Plant-Based, Healthy Diet.
• Fill at least half of your plate with waist-friendly vegetables, use fiber-rich whole grains to cover up 1/4 of the plate, and the remaining space should be protein-rich lean meats, poultry, 0r fish.
• Try going meatless at least one day a week by substituting dried beans, beans, and seeds as you meal protein source.
• Try to make heart healthy fish your protein source at least twice a week and don’t forget the fat-free and low fat milk and milk products to help you meet your daily needs for vitamin D, calcium, and potassium, nutrients that Americans, on average, are falling short of in their diet.
3) Dramatically Cut Back on Solid Fats and Added Sugars (SoFAS).
• Stop visiting the bakery and gulping all those drinks with added sugar. Currently, Americans consume 35 percent of daily calories from less nutrient-rich SoFAS which should be a measly 5 to 15% of your daily calories.
• Cut back on the solid fat heavy hitters in the diet:
1) Grain-based desserts such as cakes, cookies, pies, donuts, and granola bars;
2) Full fat cheese, and
3) Sausage, franks, bacon, and ribs.
• Cut back on the top sugar laden sources in the diet:
2) Grain-based desserts, and
3) Fruit drinks.
(Note: reducing those fatty, sugary bakery items will allow you to get double health benefits.)
4) Follow the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
• Accumulate a minimum of 2.5 hours weekly (about 20 minutes daily) of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking, to 5 hours weekly (about 40 minutes) daily to reduce your waist and reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as heart, cancer, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
• On two or more days of weight, incorporate some muscle-strengthening activities such as lifting weights or doing push ups.
Americans are also falling short of their daily needs for fiber, potassium, calcium and vitamin D and are consuming too much sodium in the diet.