Monday, January 31, 2011

What the USDA Dietary Guidelines Mean to the American Consumer

Eat less, that's what.

The seventh edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans "places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity" - critical in a country in which more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese.

The USDA plans to consolidate the information in the lengthy report into consumer tools like the Food Pyramid at a later date. For now, they've issued several tips from the guidelines to help consumers put the report into action. They are, essentially:

1. Eat less
2. Avoid oversized portions (in case #1 wasn't clear enough)
3. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
4. Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
5. Compare sodium in prepared foods and choose the foods with lower numbers
6. Drink water instead of sugary drinks

Bravo for sounding an alarm on portion sizes and overeating!

Criticisms? You betcha! First, why suggest loading up on fruit on every plate (#3) when they could have been specific and said Eat less meat, or Switch to lean protein. I would love to see the USDA encourage fat comparison on foods, similar to the sodium challenge. USDA still has meat and cheese all over their hands. And really, why leave sugar out of this message. #5 should really read, Compare sodium, sugar and fat on packages and choose the foods with lower numbers.

To #6 I would add fruit juice as something to avoid - as in, Drink water instead of sugary drinks or fruit juices.

That's all until they produce the new Pyramid.

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