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Industry trade groups are vigorously cheering the long awaited release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), highlights of which recommend increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, replacing refined grains with whole grains, increasing the amount of seafood in daily diets by replacing some meat and poultry, and choosing foods that provide more potassium, calcium, vitamin D and dietary fiber.
Published jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS), the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every five years to reflect new nutrition science related to health promotion and disease prevention. In addition to specific foods, the 2010 DGA also focuses on balancing calories with physical activity and encourages Americans to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and refined grains.
“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,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These new and improved dietary recommendations give individuals the information to make thoughtful choices of healthier foods in the right portions and to complement those choices with physical activity. The bottom line is that most Americans need to trim our waistlines to reduce the risk of developing diet-related chronic disease. Improving our eating habits is not only good for every individual and family, but also for our country.”
Declaring the new dietary guidelines “a huge step toward encouraging healthier eating habits across the country,” Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, VP of nutrition and health for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said the new consumer message to “make half your plate fruits and vegetables” is the strongest and most compelling message to ever come out of” USDA and HHS about fruits and vegetables, since it’s a visual that enables Americans know exactly how to picture the amount of fruits and vegetables they should eat at every meal. “We couldn’t be happier,” added DiSogra, noting that the “half-plate” strategy was a key tactic in the testimony United Fresh delivered to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in 2009 and 2010.
“By making an overarching recommendation like ‘half a plate,’ the 2010 DGA provides clearer guidance to Americans that, no matter what their age or calorie intake requirement, everyone needs to strive to have fruits and vegetables make up half of what they eat at each meal,” explained DiSogra, noting that new guidelines “really put fruits and vegetables front and center as a critical step toward creating a healthier America.”
For the first time, the U.S. government is also advising all Americans, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, to eat seafood at least twice a week for heart and brain benefits vs. the twice-a-week recommendation that was previously limited to heart patients. In term of recommendations for increased seafood consumption, the guidelines note that “moderate evidence shows that consumption of about 8 ounces per week of a variety of seafood, which provide an average consumption of 250 milligrams per day of EPA and DHA, is associated with reduced cardiac deaths among individuals with and without pre-existing cardiovascular disease. In addition to the health benefits for the general public, the nutritional value of seafood is of particular importance during fetal growth and development, as well as in early infancy and childhood.”
“The new Dietary Guidelines provide the scientific rationale for the health benefits and now we need to focus on making fish and shellfish a more regular part of our meals,” said Jennifer McGuire, manager of nutrition communication for the National Fisheries Institute (NFI). “Seafood has gotten lost in the American diet and as a result, we are missing out on the meaningful health benefits that the omega-3s in seafood provide.”
More consumer-friendly advice and tools, including a next generation Food Pyramid, will be released by USDA and HHS in the coming months. Among the tips that will be provided to help consumers translate the new dietary guidelines into their everyday lives 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.
• Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals and choose the foods with lower numbers.
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
For more information on the new DGA, visit www.dietaryguidelines.gov.