By law, every 5 years, Dietary Guidelines for Americans is reviewed, updated if necessary, and published. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jointly create each edition.
What does that mean to you or me?
Remember that the guidelines are intended for healthy Americans ages 2 years and older. You may read the entire publication and see the specific recommendations. In this age of multiple sources of information, you should feel comfortable knowing that this information is the federal government’s evidence- based nutritional guidance.
Here are selected messages for consumers:
• 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.
These are 6 relatively simple messages that most of us will be able to achieve. Let’s look at each of these messages and how you can make practical changes to improve your diets.
1. Enjoy your food, but eat less. Share a dinner portion with a friend or family member. At a restaurant, when your order comes, request a “Take –Home” box and immediately put half of the portion in the box. This way you won’t be tempted to eat the entire meal. Take time to savor each bite. Don’t eat in a hurry or while watching television or reading. Focus on the food and enjoy your food. You may find that this slower pace encourages you to eat less.
2. Avoid oversized portions. You don’t want to be “over-sized” so don’t upgrade your portions. Even if you think you’ll save money, don’t do it unless you are splitting the food. You don’t need the extra calories by over sizing your portions. One thing you can safely “oversize” is water. Add a little lemon or lime and go ahead and oversize your water.
3. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Take your normal plate and fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Add a smaller portion of protein and a whole grain to fill your plate. Add a fruit serving and low fat milk and you have a well balanced meal. This doesn’t mean that you can pile your plate to the ceiling with French fries. PS this won’t count for half of your fruits and veggies.
4. Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk. Make the switch to skim (fat-free) or low-fat (1%) milk. If you are used to whole milk, switch to 2%. Once you get used to this reduce it to 1% or skim. You will lose some fat calories by making this switch.
5. Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals-and choose the foods with lower numbers. Take the time to read the labels to see which foods are lower in sodium. Pick the foods with lower numbers. Once you know the best choices, be sure to purchase the items at the store. Making food from scratch will help reduce the amount of sodium in your foods.
6. Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Drink water at meals. Add a slice of lemon or lime for a refreshing taste. Bring your own reusable water bottle from home to save money and to reduce the impact of plastics on our environment. Some of us find that if we drink water with our meals (or before our meals) we’ll eat less food and consume fewer calories.
What should you do about Physical Activity?
Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits. It is common knowledge that watching our food intake and being more physically active helps us lose or control our weight. What can you do to improve your health? Follow these guidelines for health benefits.
2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for adults (18-64 years) should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week. Adults should also include muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
1. Be active for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week. You can be active in 10 minute episodes but don’t do it all on one day per week. Spread out your physical activity throughout the week. Take a walk, work in your yard, or take a bike ride. Move, move, move. Meet with friends and take a walk at lunch. Try a yoga or Pilates class. Pick up tennis or swimming. Play outdoor active games. Find an activity you enjoy and make sure you do it for about 2 -3 hours per week.
2. Include Muscle-Strengthening Activities at least 2 times a week. Lift weights or strength train at least twice a week. Involve all of your muscle groups. Use a fit-band if you have one. Go to the gym and lift weights or use free weights at home. Make it fit into your schedule so that you will strengthen your muscles.
This message is meant to encourage you to take small steps that will improve your health and provide you with many benefits. You will feel and look better. Your sleep or moods may improve as well. Make the decision to make a change today. Some people take one change and make it. Once they are comfortable with that change (in about 3 weeks) make another change. If you feel like these are easy changes that you can make, go for it!!
Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/