Written by: Tarie Beldin, RD, LD - Fit 4 Life Program at St. David's Round Rock Medical Center
Every 5 years American's are "treated" to updated information on what a healthy diet should look like in the eyes of of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Council! The 2010 Dietary Guidelines just released last week will replace the old guidelines published in 2005. So, how are we doing and what could we be doing to improve our diets and ultimately our health?
As I am sure you have heard by now, the American diet could use some improvements to help prevent obesity and diet related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Although many people are trying to eat healthier, on average Americans in all age groups consume too few fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and fish and are eating too much added sugar, refined grains, sodium and solid fats.
The term "couch potato" was created to refer to people who had sedentary habits that led to weight gain. The latest and greatest new term warns "SoFA's" contribute to about 35% of the total calories for American adults, teens and children. SoFA - stands for "Solid Fats and Added Sugars". Solid fats are in butter, cheese, stick margarine, fats in meats and hydrogenated vegetable fats. Added sugars, well are in many foods from cereals, breads, juices and the big one....soda! By reducing the intake of "SoFA's" Americans could have more room in their diets for more nutrient dense, lower calorie foods which could lead to a dramatic reduction in enery intake - combine that with an increase in physical activity and the mystery of weight loss has been revealed!
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends shifting food patterns to a more plant based diet that emphasizes vegetables, beans, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Add more fish and this now becomes the much touted Mediterranean diet, which has been beneficial for heart health and waistlines.
Other recommendations include:
- Increasing seafood and low or fat free dairy products and consume only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry and eggs. I know we live in beef country, don't worry, there are ~29 different cuts of beef that qualify as lean.
- Significantly reduce the intake of foods containing added sugars and solid fats and chose more nutrient dense foods. This doesn't mean you can't have a soft drink or fried chicken, but do so less often and in smaller portions.
- Shake the salt habit. Although it may take 8-12 weeks to retrain your taste buds, it can be done. Emphasize flavors from herbs/spices, garlic, mustards, vinegars and salsas to season your foods.
- Decrease your intake of refined grains...especially those that also incorportate added sugars, solid fats and sodium!
The main thing to keep in mind is the dietitian's favorite word - "Moderation"! All foods can fit into a healthy diet. Eat a variety of foods that include plenty of produce and lean protein and don't forget to incorporate other important healthy behaviors like drinking water, exercise, stress management and getting regular check-ups.