Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Today, with the wide variety of foods available to tantalize our palates, it can be a very pleasurable experience – sometimes to the detriment of our health. How can we enjoy food while taking action for good health?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans offer some good advice. Revisited and updated every five years since 1980, the recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines committee are now available online for public comment. Rather than simply revise the 2000 guidelines, this year’s committee took a fresh approach. Their deliberations and review of scientific evidence led to the development of the following nine key messages.
Consume a variety of foods within and among the basic food groups while staying within energy needs. While the Dietary Guidelines have always included a "food guide" message, this one makes the point that, when choosing a variety of foods, it’s important to maintain appropriate energy balance. This means limiting calorie intake, especially from added sugars, solid fats, and alcoholic beverages, sources of calories that are very poor sources of essential nutrients.
Control calorie intake to manage body weight. Much more explicit than the 2000 Dietary Guideline to "aim for a healthy weight," this guideline makes the point that when it comes to weight control, calories do count, not the proportions of carbohydrate, fat and protein in the diet. Energy expended must equal energy consumed to stay at the same weight.
Be physically active every day. Recognizing the importance of activity in weight management, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines committee is recommending even more activity than suggested in the past. Thirty minutes per day of moderate physical activity now is considered a baseline. For children and adolescents, at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days is recommended to promote fitness and healthy weight gain during growth. It is also recognized that many adults need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days to prevent unhealthy weight gain, and up to 90 minutes a day to avoid regain of weight.
Increase daily intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat or low-fat milk and milk products. The 2005 committee is suggesting 21/2 to 61/2 cups of fruits and vegetables daily, depending on calorie needs. Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables daily is recommended, with emphasis on whole fruits and berries, dark green, leafy vegetables, bright orange vegetables and legumes.
Choose fats wisely for good health. In recognizing that fats differ in their effect on blood lipids, this guideline promotes keeping intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol low and suggests including good sources of the n-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA – in the diet.
Choose carbohydrates wisely for good health. To ensure adequate fiber, this guideline focuses on choosing whole fruits rather than juices and whole grains rather than refined ones. It also encourages limiting intake of foods with added sugars.
Choose and prepare foods with little salt. Reducing salt intake is one of several ways that people can lower their blood pressure. The vast majority of Americans consume too much salt, much of it from processed foods. This guideline focuses on keeping sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day.
If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation. This guideline has remained unchanged for years. For adults who chose to drink, moderation means up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink is defined as 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
Keep food safe to eat. New to the 2000 Dietary Guidelines, the 2005 version continues to recognize the importance of food safety in promoting health. Foodborne diseases result in approximately 5,000 deaths each year, most of which could have been prevented by following simple food handling and consumption practices.
Copies of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s 2005 Report, along with information on how to make comments, can be found at http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines.
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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension