This week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a new set of dietary guidelines for America. The main objective of the 2010 edition of the guidelines (which are updated every 5 years) is to reduce our country’s ever increasing obesity rate. Nutritionist Marion Nestle says, “The new guidelines recognize that obesity is the number one health nutrition problem in America and actually give good advice about what to do about it: eat less and eat better.” But with obesity rapidly earning its place as one of the most alarming health issues in the United States today, will these new suggestions have the power to change the way Americans are eating and living, without the backing of the law? Will we put down our corn chips, stow the mint chocolate chip back in the freezer, and stop drinking so much beer on the weekends, just because the government tells us it’s a good idea?
Although the two main concepts highlighted in the new guidelines are simple, it seems that they are commonly ignored by many modern consumers: We must balance the calories we intake with the calories we expend and “make smarter food choices”‘by increasing our consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; sticking with lean meats and low fat dairy products; and filling our glasses with pure, unadulterated water instead of calorie-laden juices and sodas. Americans have heard this message time and again. However, these most recent guidelines also acknowledge the health advantages of some less common dietary practices, which may be alien to many Americans’vegetarianism and veganism! With all the food industry politics involved in producing a document that may be perceived as anti-meat, this seems like a significant step forward.
While many health-conscious Americans have long been convinced of the benefits of a plant-based diet, perhaps the average McDonald’s customer is not. Chapter 5 of the new guidelines (“Building Healthy Eating Patterns”) states, “Vegetarian-style eating patterns have been associated with improved health outcomes’lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and lower total mortality.” Though his seems like something of a “duh” message, hopefully it will inspire Americans to reduce (if not eliminate) their intake of animal products and benefit their bodies and the planet. At least these new guidelines don’t tiptoe around the truth.
The complete Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 can be downloaded here.