The USDA released new dietary guidelines today, and for the first time it suggests Americans should eat less. Yes, the government is finally standing up to the food lobby and declaring we should consume less of its delicious, fatty wares!
The Department of Agriculture revises the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years, but this update is notable for being more specific about what Americans should and shouldn't eat. Rather than vague messages about cutting back on cholesterol, salt, and sugar, and eating more vegetables, the New York Times reports the guidelines are now more detailed: You should cover half your plate with fruits and vegetables, eat less than 10% of calories from saturated fatty acids, and reduce sodium consumption to 2,300 milligrams per day. According to Reuters, Americans are also urged to "enjoy your food but eat less," avoid oversized portions, and replace sugary drinks with water. Oh, and try to move around a bit, when your TV-viewing schedule permits.
While experts say this is progress for the USDA, many still complain that the food lobby has too much influence over the guidelines. According to The Times:
[Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University] said government regulators could be even more blunt. She said they continue to cite specific foods when telling people what to eat more, while they tend to use nutrients when telling people what to eat less. For example, the guidelines say, "Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars and sodium."
"It means eat less junk food," she said.
Changes to the guidelines will influence federal nutrition programs and may lead to companies reformulating some of their products. (At the very least they'll invent some healthy-sounding buzzword to slap on their packaging. Lower sodelicious Cheez Whiz, anyone?) However, even if they are more straightforward, it seems unlikely that individuals will suddenly realize that Doritos and Mountain Dew aren't part of a balanced diet. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack even acknowledged this at the news conference today. While he said following the USDA's recommendations has changed his life, he added, "I must admit personally that I never read the dietary guidelines until I got this job." Note: If any of you ever become secretary of agriculture, you should definitely give these a once over.