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USDA and HHS announce new dietary guidelines

February 1, 2011

USDA and Department of Health and Human Services have released the federal government’s updated dietary guidelines to encourage Americans to make healthier food choice and designed to address high rates of obesity.  

With more than a third of kids and two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese, the federal government’s focus is on encouraging Americans to cut calories and get active.

“This is a crisis that we can no longer ignore,” said Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These new and improved dietary recommendations give individuals the information to make thoughtful choices of healthier foods in the right portions and to complement those choices with physical activity.

One of the consumer tips that will be used to promote the guidelines advises “Enjoy your food, but eat less.”   Other tips include:

  • Avoid oversized portions.
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Those of us in agriculture are always on the alert for efforts to demonize certain foods, particularly meat.   Evidently, there’s a role for “nutrient dense sources of protein.”   In the end, it appears as if beef and pork producers found something to like in the new guidelines which also recommended reducing salt intake

However, beef producers are concerned that the guidelines will be misinterpreted by some into thinking that we are consuming too much meat. 

 “On average, U.S. consumers eat 1.7 ounces of U.S. beef daily. To stay healthy, we need to eat 5 to 7 ounces from the meat and beans group daily,” said Shalene McNeill, Ph.D., R.D. and executive director, human nutrition research at NCBA.

As far as the cause of obesity, McNeill says American consumption of flour and cereal productions has risen by an average of 200 calories per day while average daily caloric intake of meat and eggs “have remained virtually unchanged.” 

A supplemental report to the guidelines examined organic and conventionally grown foods and concluded: “Our current understanding of conventionally and organically produced foods indicate that their nutritional values and contributions to human health are similar.” 

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