New Nutrition Advice From Government: Enjoy Your Food, But Eat Less


 vegetable plate


At last.  The much-anticipated 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have been released.  They’re a bit late (as you tell by the 2010 moniker) but they’re here.  And now the real work begins — translating this policy into practice. 

In reality, the nutrition advice is not all that different from the last version 5  years ago.  Obesity is a bigger deal in 2010, and that was reflected by the first-ever emphasis on eating less.  Surprisingly, we’ve not had such a straightforward mandate. Now, 4 of the 23  key recommendations are related to balancing calories to manage weight.

“Discretionary calories,” a term from the 2005 guidelines that was never fully understood has morphed into “solid fats and added sugars,” which is probably another equally confusing concept.  This twosome (dubbed SoFAS)  is the biggest source of nonessential calories in the American diet — or foods that offer very little nutritionally besides calories.

Solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fats) supply 19% of our total calories, with grain-based desserts as the biggest contributor — from butter, shortening and hydrogenated stick margarine.  Heavily-marbled meats are also major suppliers of solid fats.  Added sugars currently supply 16% of our total calories, and no surprise, the biggest contributors are soda, energy drinks and sports drinks.


USDAgov on

Keep in mind, what was announced today was the policy document from USDA and HHS.  This is intended to provide the scientific rationale to drive federal nutrition policy, including food and menu labeling, improving school foods and public health promotion.  What will be really meaningful is the consumer education initiative, which will be launched in the spring (an update of MyPyramid, which could be a pyramid or something new entirely).  Even so, I was glad to see that the committee spent time trying to boil down the 95-page report into some consumer take-home messages:

Balancing Calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less
  • Avoid oversized portions

Foods to Increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk

Foods to Reduce

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals — and choose the foods with lower numbers
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks

How great to see “enjoyment” even be part of the equation.   Sometimes that’s overlooked.  But I think that’s so important to emphasize.  You can still eat healthy and enjoy the food you eat.  Nutritious can be delicious.  How great would it be if the press conference today featured actual food — instead of the stark stage where Secretaries Vilsack and Sibelius gave their speeches to unveil the new guidelines. 


USDAgov on

After all, we eat food, not nutrients.  Probably the greatest advice of all was the call to action to make half your plate fruits and vegetables.  That’s a strong, actionable message.  That’s what we need.  We need to translate the science into small action steps that can truly change the way America eats. 

So bottom line, the new guidelines say we need to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lowfat dairy and seafood.  We need to consume  more calcium, vitamin D, potassium and dietary fiber – nutrients of concern in American diets. And the same time, we must reduce salt, solid fats, added sugar and refined grains.  That’s a tall order. 

This can all be overwhelming.  Even Secretary Vilsack admitted he hadn’t read the guidelines until he got the job with the USDA.  Hello, I wish you would have kept that to yourself.  How do we expect the public to take notice if you didn’t view them worthy until you were paid to help revise them?

I totally applaud the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  Now we need to offer solutions to help the public make them real.  That comes down to helping people know what to pack for lunch and put on the plate at dinner.  We need to better arm the public with specific solutions to make these guidelines a reality.

Keeping it real and making it enjoyable is a good place to start.

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  • Hello Janet,

    Great review of the new guidelines! I was happy to see that on the blog today. I couldn’t agree with you more. For the first time ever, the USDA really stepped out to make some great new changes in effort to prevent obesity and change the way America eats.

    I also reviewed the new guidelines on my blog. I have to admit I was a little more critical particularly of the new sodium provision of 1500 mg a day applying to only half of Americans, but overall I agree that they are a fantastic step in the right direction. After-all, Rome wasn’t built in a day!

    Thanks for your expert weigh on these new guidelines!

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  • Jim Matorin

    Guidelines politically correct and directing people how to eat healthier, but did not exactly cross the line to talk about what foods to avoid. It was also great to endorse seafood, but the average American is unaware how poor our supply chain is in this area and what impact it has on our future environment.

  • Great review Janet!! A recent article that I read discussed how overweight and obesity are more prevalent in children that buy their lunches at school and watch at least two hours of TV a day (There seems to be a connection to the convenience factor-it’s inconvenient to pack my kid’s lunch and to engage them in activity). I would love to see school lunches where half the plate is made up of fruits and vegetables! The only way kids are going to learn how to eat them is if they are offered them again and again. Who ever created the concept of ‘kid food’ anyway?

  • Nice review. I watched the press conference yesterday as well, and although I thought they did a decent job rolling out the new recs, I thought they did a poor job answering questions, especially the one about solid fats. And I’m not sure why milk was singled out… there are so many other good foods to increase (legumes, beans, whole grains, etc.) that could have been mentioned.

  • Hi Janet. I appreciate your blog review too! Especially knowing that we agree on how important it is to enjoy the food you eat. It’s so often overlooked. And also that you pointed out a couple of times that now we need solutions and simple steps to make these guidelines actionable. I would have to say starting with filling 1/2 your plate with fruits and vegetables is a good first step.

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  • Sebelius went to the Bilderberg group in 2009.
    Vilsack is Council on Foreign Relations globalist.

    Why wont they admit most Americans are obese because of:
    -trans-fats in their fast foods,
    -empty indigestible High Fructose Corn Syrup calories in much of their food/drink (that is heavily govt subsidized), and
    -fluoride in their water which competes with Iodine in the thyroid, lowering metabolism and inducing mild hypothyroidism?

    Because they are as you said, “Even Secretary Vilsack admitted he hadn’t read the guidelines until he got the job with the USDA. Hello, I wish you would have kept that to yourself. How do we expect the public to take notice if you didn’t view them worthy until you were paid to help revise them?” ~~ cause they are chasing paper debt money backed by nothing but the credit of the indentured servants of the banker stolen USA.

    It is suspect that you would advise such an underhanded tactic of keeping his nonchalant attitude about his job to himself.
    My point, they are PR people. Perpetuating the pseudoscientific paradigm of low-fat = healthy diet, among other untruths.
    Harsh? NO. People are dying out there because of these banker debt-slavers and misleaders!

    I’m going to eat more and not enjoy it, if I had the money.

  • Reading my comment, I must learn a bit of tact.

    Try to look past my scathing attitude towards these diet dictocrats. There is alot of myth in govt policies that I really don’t understand why they would advocate alot of what they are doing(low-fat, low-sodium, chiefly). One point behind my mentality is that I know many ‘whys’ about nutrition, which is something they never talk about behind a microphone. They only talk about the ‘whats’

    Well I’m not interested in the the whats of nutrition. Only the whys. And that is the difference between understanding how the body works, and implementing a brain-dead policy coming from a political decision from god knows where.

    So, with my foot in my mouth, do they actually talk about the whys in this address?

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