Although somewhat belated, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released late last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
Since 1980, the Guidelines have been updated and issued every 5 years. The 2010 Guidelines don’t represent a significant departure from government recommendations made over the past 25 years. But, they incorporate diet and lifestyle recommendations to address the current obesity epidemic in both children and adults.
The 2010 Guidelines are based on a review of the most recent scientific evidence. The Guidelines provide information and advice for choosing a healthy eating pattern – one that focuses on nutrient dense foods and beverages and contributes to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
The 2010 Guidelines provide recommendations on the foods and food components to reduce and the foods and nutrients to increase.
Foods and Food Components to Reduce
These “eat less” guidelines focus on reducing intake of nutrients including sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol and trans-fats.
- Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg; reduce intake to 1,500 mg per day among those 51 years and older or those who are African American, have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
- Consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fats and replace with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.
- Consume less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol.
- Keep trans-fatty acid consumption as low as possible.
- Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS).
- Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined grains, especially foods that contain refined grains, solid fats, added sugars and sodium.
- Consume alcohol in moderation. This equates to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
Foods and Nutrients to Increase
These “eating better” guidelines encourage Americans to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat milk, soy products, seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.
- Increase vegetable and fruit intake.
- Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange vegetables; beans and peas.
- Consume half of all grains as whole grains.
- Increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products such as yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages.
- Choose a variety of protein foods including seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds.
- Increase the amount and variety of seafood by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry.
- Replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats/calories.
- Use oils to replace solid fats where possible.
- Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D – nutrients that many Americans are lacking.
The next phase of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines is the release of an updated Food Pyramid and consumer-friendly advice and tools. Some tips that will be provided to help consumers translate the Guidelines into everyday life include the following:
- 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 and choose foods with lower numbers.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a regular Health & Wellness reader, then you won’t find these recommendations surprising or revolutionary. At The Wellness Center, we’ve been making these suggestions for years.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are moving in the right direction but still have their faults. Nutrition experts like Marion Nestle, applaud the government for taking a stand on the obesity issue by telling Americans to eat less. The Guidelines also provide specific recommendations on the types of foods to increase consumption of like fruits and vegetables, seafood, nuts and beans.
At the same time, the USDA does not provide specifics foods to reduce, just nutrients. Presumably, this was done to not generate the wrath of dairy and meat processors. Specific foods to reduce which are indicated in the 2010 Guidelines report include cakes, cookies, pizza, cheese, processed and fatty meats, ice-cream, sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit drinks.
The key challenge is getting people to change their behavior. The government is encouraging Americans to take responsibility for their health. But, this is an increasingly difficult task even for the most disciplined as the message of eating healthy is drowned out by the overabundance of cheap, unhealthy foods. Clearly, food manufacturers and restaurants need to do a better job in providing healthy foods at affordable pricing. In particular, they need to focus on reducing the portion size and sodium content of their offerings.
If you’re struggling to eat healthy, you can download a table from the lengthy report that offers suggestions on how to meet the calorie, physical exercise, dietary and food safety recommendations outlined in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.