Let's Get Real — Understanding The New Dietary Guidelines For Americans

January 31, 2011


The 2010 Dietary Guidelines, a little late in coming out, were released this morning hoping to turn the tide of common nutrition programs in the United States. So getting "real" with the guidelines means focusing in on eating real versus processed foods.

So what are the Dietary Guidelines? Consider the guidelines like the "State of the Union" for Health and Wellness. The American Dietetic Association calls the 2010 Dietary Guidelines an "urgent prescription for an unhealthy public." The Dietary Guidelines are reviewed and updated every 5 years to reflect the nutrition and physical activity patterns needed to promote health and wellness. They are designed for Americans ages 2 and older and include those at risk of developing chronic illness.

There are 2 major themes for families to consider:

  • To no one's surprise there is an emphasis on maintaining calorie balance and matching calories consumed with physical activity. Children need 60 minutes of play per day and great guidelines have been developed by organizations such as the NFL and NFL Play 60.
  • In addition to increasing physical activity and play, there is also an emphasis on consuming nutrient dense foods. There are foods with maximum nutrition for the calories consumed. Some examples would be to choose higher quality carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and 100% whole grain breads. All of these are nutrient dense foods.

Some specific recommendations to implement the goals above would include:

  • Replace sugary drinks with water. Sugary drinks include fruit punch, lemonade, sweet tea, energy drinks, soda and sports drinks that aren't consumed around physical activity.
  • Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. These foods are naturally high in potassium and low in sodium if you reduce the salt or salty seasonings in cooking. The campaign for National Nutrition Month is "Eat Right with Color!" So encourage your children to choose fruits and vegetables from the colors of the rainbow to get a variety of nutrient dense foods. Encourage  your children to gobble the garden!
  • Switch to fat free or 1% low fat milk and dairy products. Children often get a high proportion of the animal fat that they consume from dairy products. Start the swap today. If you are using 2% milk, try switching to 1% milk. Often purchasing 1% high protein milk helps the milk to taste and look like a richer milk.
  • Serve your children age appropriate servings. A great way to start is to serve children under 6 on salad plates versus regular dinner plates. It forces portion control!
  • Compare labels and choose lower sodium foods. Approximately 75% of the sodium we consume comes from processed foods so reading labels is key. The more "instant" or quick the food is to prepare, in general the higher the sodium intake. Purchase lower sodium versions of family favorites if available!

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