Topic: Dietary Guidelines and MyPlate
What do the new 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans mean for you? Part 1
The USDA last week released their long awaited update to the recommended Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which was last updated in 2005. We all hear constant reporting about the obesity epidemic in America. These important guidelines are a first step to nudge Americans into changing their eating and lifestyle habits. Without slow but steady improvements in the way we eat and move, the resulting health care costs and unnecessary disease will be staggering.
Many of the recommendations remained unchanged. Most notable is the reduction in daily sodium intake to 2300mg (1 teaspoon) for the general population, but a decrease to 1500mg for those who are 51 and older, African Americans of ANY age, or anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. This applies to about half of the US population, including children, and the majority of adults. This is critical because 34% of the U.S. population already has hypertension, and 36% have blood pressure readings that qualify as prehypertension.
What does that mean? Well, unfortunately, most sodium we consume is not added at the table, it is hiding in our processed foods, and the meals we buy at restaurants and any other food prepared by someone other than yourself. The data varies, but the average American currently consumes approximately 3500mg of sodium per day, more than double the new recommendation for over half the population. So what do we do now?
The first step you can take is to try swapping out processed foods for whole ones. A quick example: a packet of instant maple brown sugar oatmeal contains 260mg of sodium, while the same size portion of plain old fashioned oats contains 0mg sodium. The lesson: cook your own oats. It only takes a minute or so longer, and you can add your own flavorings. Stick to vanilla extract, cinnamon, and your preferred form of sweetener or fresh/frozen fruit. Plus, it’s much more cost effective!
This tip applies to all the other dietary guidelines as well. When you begin with a whole, unprocessed food, you control what you put on your plate. Fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats and fish, beans and other whole, unprocessed grains are the foundation for a healthy diet. These foods contain extremely low levels of natural sodium. It’s all added later in the manufacturing and cooking process.
There is proposed legislation in many parts of the country to force food companies and restaurants to decrease the amount of sodium added to food. Reaching the newly proposed limit on sodium intake is going to be a challenge for most people. BUT, it does not need to happen all at once. Start making small changes. Use less sodium in your cooking. Substitute sea salt or kosher salt for table salt. They contain less sodium per teaspoon, but make sure not to increase the amount you use. Also, switch to low sodium broth and stock when you prepare recipes. It’s an easy swap, and can make a huge difference. Rinse canned items that are salted such as beans and other vegetables, as well as canned tuna when possible. Every little bit helps.
As you slowly decrease the amount of salt you consume, your taste buds will adjust. The added benefit is that by consuming fewer salty processed foods, you will increase your consumption of fresh, whole foods, and improve the overall quality of your diet. That change will help you attain the other recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines as well. Keep checking back for additional blogs with suggestions to help you achieve the other recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines, 2010.
The executive summary detailing the key recommendations can be found here http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/ExecSumm.pdf
The heavy toll of diet related chronic diseases (including the above blood pressure statistics) can be found here; scroll to page 3: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/Chapter1.pdf
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