The federal dietary guidelines were officially updated the other day, and I’ve decided I want to talk about it just a little bit. Be warned: If you’re a reader of my blog, you might be into the Weight Watchers/healthy eating lifestyle already, so the likelihood of you finding new information about how we should eat is very low. That being said, read on…
While there is a huge document broken up into different chapters over on the health.gov website, today I want to focus on the page they titled the “Executive Summary,” which summarizes the new guidelines. Let me give you the highlights, taken directly from the dietary guidelines document:
Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.
Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.
Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.
Seems reasonable, right? That’s what most of us who are trying to lose weight and get healthy are striving for on a daily basis. The next list goes on to talk about key recommendations for a healthy eating pattern that is to be consumed “within an appropriate calorie level.” What are these key recommendations?
- A variety of vegetables from all sub-groups: aka different colors (dark greens, reds, beans and legumes, etc)
- Fruits (especially whole)
- Grains, most of which should be whole grains
- Fat free or low fat dairy
- A variety of proteins (lean meats, seafood, eggs, etc)
The other key items that health.gov is emphasizing is a diet significantly less in sugar (less than 10% of calories per day) and less saturated fat (less than 10% of calories per day). Alcohol should also be consumed in moderation. It’s also suggested that you meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
I have to chuckle because this sounds a whole lot like the new Weight Watchers Beyond the Scale plan. The new WW plan specifically emphasized upping protein and limiting sugars and fats. Basically the government confirmed how I have felt all along: the Weight Watchers way of living really is a healthy, well rounded way of living. Hooray for Weight Watchers.
Apparently these new guidelines are already catching a lot of criticism from the critics because they’re not specific enough. People are saying that the guidelines don’t say things like “drink less soda” or “eat less meat” but instead talk about limiting your sugar and saturated fat intake. Is this the USDA’s way of telling us how to eat and drink without specifically targeting businesses of processed foods, fatty meats, and soda companies? I don’t know, but it’s interesting to think about.
At the end of the day, the new US health guidelines really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. They’re the same guidelines as the new Weight Watchers plan and likely the same guidelines that anyone leading a healthy lifestyle has already been following. No shocking news here, yet it took us this long to establish these guidelines as the new healthy way of living.
What are your thoughts on these new dietary guidelines?
For more information you can check out the resources below: