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Louisianians need to follow new dietary guidelines

The Dietary Guidelines, which are issued every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, call for some drastic changes in the American diet. The guidelines, which are issued every five years, are intended to define a healthful diet, offer options, promote good choices and increase public awareness.

LSU AgCenter nutritionists say these dietary guidelines provide science-based advice for healthy people ages 2 and above, as well as for those at increased risk of chronic diseases.

Guidelines address unhealthy public

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are the first to address an unhealthy public. With a majority of the country’s adults either overweight or obese, the new recommendations are especially urgent for consumers and health professionals, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames.

According to Reames, the Dietary Guidelines provide “a healthy balance approach to weight management, which focuses on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages and engaging in regular physical activity.”

The guidelines are based on a growing body of evidence that documents the vital role nutrition plays throughout one’s life. Two issues show the necessity of establishing good nutrition early in life: risk factors for chronic diseases are increasingly found in younger individuals and eating patterns established in childhood often track later into life.

The goal of the new guidelines is to help individuals maintain a calorie balance over time to achieve and sustain a healthy weight. The guidelines also recognize the influence of the food environment on our choices and hope to make food containing high amounts of saturated fats, sodium and refined grains the less frequent choice.

The guidelines are intended to be implemented in their entirety.

Portion size recommendations

“These guidelines recommend a shift in food consumption patterns, encouraging people to eat more of some foods and less of others,” Reames says.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to eat more vegetables and fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products and seafood (not fried).

The guidelines call for less sugar, solid fats and refined grains in their diet.

A significant change in the guidelines is a reduction in sodium intake for half the population – including African-Americans, people 50 or older or those with diabetes, hypertension or chronic kidney disease. This population should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams – a little more than ½ teaspoon – of sodium a day.

For those not included in the restricted groups, the guidelines continue to advocate only 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. Americans typically consume twice that amount, according to Reames.

She says the best way to stay within the sodium recommendations is to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and limit foods with hidden sodium such as breads, pasta and canned and processed foods.

Consuming more fruits and vegetables also can help people lower their saturated fat intake. The guidelines recommend that less than 10 percent of calories should come from saturated fats. They also encourage the consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as tuna and salmon.

“The new guidelines urge consumer to make half of their plates consist of fruits and vegetables,” she says.

Reames points out that by shifting to more fruits and vegetables, people will reduce calorie intake and better manage weight.

The guidelines also have changed from recommending servings to recommending a specific amount of food in ounces. Old guidelines, for example, recommended eating two servings of fish a week. The new guidelines specify eating 8 ounces of fish.

“What is a serving can differ from person to person,” Reames says.

Environmental Factors

The guidelines recognize the current food environment influences what and how Americans eat.

“All elements of society have a positive and productive role to play in the movement to make America healthy,” Reames says. “These players need to work together to improve people’s nutrition and physical activity.”

Demographic factors such as age, gender, race and socio-economic status can affect a person’s food intake.

The strategies outlined in the guidelines promote a society oriented to chronic disease prevention.

Enjoy food but eat less

Finally, the guidelines encourage consumers to enjoy their food, but to reduce the amount. Nutritional research shows that one of the main reasons people don’t do all they can to eat more healthfully is that they don’t want to give up foods they enjoy.

“Making changes to your eating plan to follow the recommendations of the new Dietary Guidelines can be done in ways that still let you eat your favorite foods,” Reames says.

Reames says learning to control portions at home and while dining out can help people achieve a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Read more about Smart Choices.

Here are key recommendations:

· Eat less salt; read labels and choose foods with less sodium.

· Eat fewer fried foods.

· Eat more fish (not fried) and more fruits and vegetables.

· Move more; work more exercise into your daily routine.

· Serve as an example for children on how to eat properly.

· Enjoy your favorite foods – but limit portion size!

The LSU AgCenter is one of 11 institutions of higher education in the Louisiana State University System. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, it provides educational services in every parish and conducts research that contributes to the economic development of the state. The LSU AgCenter plays an integral role in supporting agricultural industries, enhancing the environment, and improving the quality of life through its 4-H youth, family and community programs. The LSU AgCenter provides research-based information for home gardeners and the nursery and landscape industry.

Last Updated: 3/13/2012 7:23:37 AM

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