Government publishes guidelines to healthy eating
Hold your cookies. According to the “2015- 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” published Jan. 8. by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Americans’ eating habits and diets need improvement. In other words, we eat more of what we should eat less of, such as sugar and salt, and we eat too little of what we should eat more of, such as grains and vegetables.
The “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” is published every five years with the intention to promote overall health and prevention of chronic diseases by breaking it down into clear numbers and recommendations for what a healthy diet should look like.
Some of the key recommendations included the consumption of less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugar, less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats and less than 2,300 milligrams per day of sodium.
Let me put into perspective for you how much of those ingredients we as Americans consume on average as opposed to those recommendations.
Less than 10 percent of all daily calories should be added sugar; however, at all age groups, regardless of gender or race, the average consumption is at 13 percent and above. We consume 78 percent of the added sugar from sodas and snacks and sweets. The rest of the sugar comes from salad dressings, condiments, fruits, grains, mixed dishes and dairy.
Our other enemy, sodium, might seem harder to avoid because it’s in almost everything we eat — unless you use sodium- free seasonings, which are largely available and taste good, too — yet we should keep it under 2,300 milligrams (0.08 ounce) per day, as opposed to the 3,440 milligram (0.121 ounce) daily average.
On the other hand, according to the guidelines, we should pack our fridge with a variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups, including dark green, red and orange, starchy and legumes (beans and peas).
As of today, the average intake doesn’t reach the recommended amount.
When it comes to fruits, especially whole fruits, we are doing great and meet the recommended amount up until the age of eight — probably about the age when you think you’re smarter than mom and leave that apple behind — but after that, the average won’t climb to even the bottom number of recommended, which is 1.5 cup or equivalent a day.
Other food groups we should include more consciously in our diet to avoid chronic and preventable diseases are grains, at least half of which are whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese and/or fortified soy beverages and a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes and nuts, seeds and soy products.
We also must pay attention to having more oils as opposed to solid fats (saturated and trans fats) in our diet.
Before we forget, many of you might wonder about alcohol. It’s OK, with moderation: up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
All of the above mentioned guidelines are based on the most current scientific evidences and are put together by an Advisory Committee of prestigious researchers in the fields of nutrition, health and medicine.
A couple diets that incorporate the recommended proportions of each component are the healthy Mediterranean- style eating pattern and the healthy vegetarian eating pattern. Needless to say, although healthy living depends 80 percent on diet, we need to fill that 20 percent with physical activity to maintain a strong and healthy muscle and bone structure.
Applying these guidelines into our diet is the first step toward lowering the number of Americans — 117 million — who are diagnosed with some type of chronic disease, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, cardiovascular disease and poor bone health. This dietary shift will also lower your chance of becoming one in 117 million.