New Dietary Guidelines Deciphered
Better later than never. The federal government finally released its “2010 update” of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans in late January 2011. The update incorporates advice based on the latest nutrition research, a lot of which has emerged since the previous guidelines were released in 2005.
Here’s what the new Guidelines say that a healthy diet should look like, and what the guidance means.
Guidelines: “Shift food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.”
Translation: Check out vegetarian recipes and entrees on menus, even if you’re not a vegetarian. They can help increase intake of valuable nutrients, including fiber and antioxidants.
Guidelines: “Increase the intake of seafood and fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products, and consume only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and eggs.”
Translation: You don’t have to cut milk or steak from a healthy diet. Choose low fat versions of dairy. Kids need 3 servings of lower fat milk, cheese and yogurt. There are 29 different cuts of beef that qualify as lean, with less than 10 grams of fat per serving. (See
Guidelines: “Significantly reduce intake of foods containing added sugars and solid fats because these dietary components contribute excess calories and few, if any, nutrients.”
Translation: Don’t waste calories on sugar-sweetened beverages and deep fried foods. If you do, spend those calories wisely with smaller portions enjoyed less frequently.
Guidelines: “Reduce sodium intake.”
Translation: Go easy on processed foods. Shaking a salt habit doesn’t have to mean suffering with bland foods. Add flavor with herbs, spices, vinegars, salsas, onion, garlic and mushrooms. Cooking techniques such as grilling, roasting and pan searing caramelize the natural sugars and proteins in foods to add flavor.
Guidelines: “Lower intake of refined grains, especially refined grains that are coupled with added sugar, solid fat, and sodium.”
Translation: Go easy on the donuts and tortilla chips. Just because it is brown or states that it is high in fiber does not necessarily mean it is whole grain. You must read the label carefully to correctly identify foods that qualify as whole grain. The ingredient statement will list whole grains by the specific grain, such as whole-wheat flour, whole oats or whole-grain corn. In many whole-grain foods, a whole grain is among the first ingredients listed. For help choosing healthy whole grains, see www.wholegrainscouncil.org
Althea Zanecosky is a Philadelphia registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.