The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released today—finally. These guidelines, which are updated every five years, affect the information shown on food labels, dictate what is served in schools, influence how much money food and act as a basis for advice given by care providers in clinical and community settings. They’re also a hot debate topic, as they are notoriously confusing and the focus of heavy lobbying.

The new guidelines include 23 general recommendations and 6 recommendations for specific groups, such as pregnant women.

Though these guidelines don’t differ all that much from the 2005 guidelines, but in addition to encouraging fruits, vegetables and whole grain consumption along with lower-sodium, lower-fat food choices, the advice went a little further in some cases. For example, where Americans were encouraged to consume 3 servings per day or low-fat or fat-free dairy, they are now advised to switch from low-fat to fat-free milk.  There is also a greater focus on lowering calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.

As stated by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who announced these guidelines, “The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are being released at a time when the majority of adults and one in three children is overweight or obese and this is a crisis that we can no longer ignore.”

You can read a summary here and a full press release here.

I was particularly intrigued by the section on calorie control. Some of the guidelines presented include:

  • 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.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

I was also interested by the advice offered for reducing sodium intake: “Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and choose the foods with lower numbers.” I think it’s great to include these kinds of instructional details. Sure, we can tell people to eat less sodium, but arming them with information on how to do that is even more important!

So what are your thoughts on the Dietary Guidelines? Is there anything you would like to add? I know I’ve got a list…

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