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What’s in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans?

This week, the United States Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services unveiled the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  Of course, it’s already 2011 so they’re late in arriving.  But seeing as the guidelines are only revised every five years, these are the marching orders we’ll be living with for the next few years.   So, how good are these new guidelines? Will getting on board with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines make Americans any healthier? 

Let’s take a closer look at what advice the government has to offer.

Recommendation #1: Eat Less, Move More

More than ever before, the new guidelines are focused on tackling obesity and its associated costs and consequences. So before they even get into the details of what we should and shouldn’t be eating, the guidelines emphasize the need to balance calories in and calories out. For most Americans, that boils down to eating less.

The guidelines also stress the need to move more—to increase physical activity and decrease “screen-time,” or the number of hours we and our kids log in front of televisions, computers, game, and other electronic devices. There’s nothing particularly new about the eat less/move more advice. However, it’s notable that this is what the government chose to single out as the #1 take-home message.

Recommendation #2: Eat More Nutrient-Dense Foods

The second big theme in the new Guidelines is to shift consumption away from empty calories and toward more nutrient-dense foods. So, for example, the guidelines suggest that fruits and vegetables should fill half your plate at meal times and that people should drink water instead of sweetened beverages.  Good advice, as far as I’m concerned.  Once you get beyond these two over-arching themes, the guidelines begin to focus on specific foods and nutrients that we should either try to eat more or less of. And here’s where things start to get a little more controversial…and political.



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