Have you heard the news? The new Dietary Guidelines were released this week. Among the new recommendations? More seafood, less sugar and sodium. The guidelines, published jointly every five years since 1980 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture, aim at promoting good health and preventing chronic disease. Addressing the obesity epidemic in the United States, the new version emphasizes caloric intake and the increase of physical activity.
New and notable features of this version include: recommendations that are directional rather than including precise amounts, a key recommendation for increasing seafood intake, consideration of eating behaviors and limiting specific foods because they are substantial sources of sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat or added sugars. There is also a focus on nutrients that are a public health concern and new alcohol consumption guidelines for breastfeeding women (read more about that by clicking here).
Main Messages and Tips:
- Balance calories over time and at each life stage by increasing physical activity and consuming fewer calories than expended.
- Monitor calories from both food and beverages (including alcoholic drinks, fruit juice and soda, among others).
- Increase your intake of plant foods (especially leafy greens, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas and nuts and seeds).
- Replace refined grains with whole grains.
- Add seafood to your diet (two 8-ounce servings a week).
- Switch to low-fat (1 percent) or fat-free dairy products.
- Check packaging and choose products that are lower sodium and don't include added sugars and solid fats.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
- Enjoy the food you eat, but eat less of it by avoiding oversized portions.
When someone tells me to eat less food, what's the first thing I want to do? Go eat more food. So, since, the concept of "reducing" foods always seems so daunting, I'll focus on the section of the guidelines titled "Foods and Nutrients to Increase." The focus of increasing these items is to create a balanced diet and to help Americans to add more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D to an often-lacking diet. By doing this, you will naturally begin to eliminate those items that do not contain ample nutritional value.
What to add?
Nutrient dense foods are whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals with relatively few calories. They are prepared without added solid fats, sugars, starches and sodium, which means they can provide us with nutrients and fiber without excessive calories (read: eat more, weigh less!). Items to increase include foods such as vegetables, whole grains, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, seafood and low-fat milk and dairy products (if tolerated), with only a moderate intake of lean meats and poultry and eggs.
Something to Remember:
Everybody is different.
The guidelines address this by saying, “A healthy eating plan is not a rigid description, but rather an array of options that can accommodate cultural, ethnic, traditional and personal preferences and food cost and availability.” In other words, what works for you might not work for someone else, so keeping these recommendations is important, but staying in tune with your body is doubly important. What gives you the energy you need to function? What makes you feel sick and uncomfortable after eating? What allergies do you have? Don't forget to keep these considerations in mind when creating an eating plan that is right for you.
To read the guidelines, visit http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DietaryGuidelines.htm.