February is National Heart Health Month and we’re dedicating ourselves to bringing you tips for keeping your heart in good working condition. To kick us off right (even if we are almost a week late!), it seems like the perfect time to discuss the newly released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
As a brief background, the Guidelines are reviewed and revised by the USDA every 5 years. The Guidelines are intended to help guide legislation and provide information for drafting educational materials in an effort to promote healthy eating in Americans. Sounds simple enough, but after listening to Eve Essery, PhD speak at the Whole Grains Conference last week, I realized that these guidelines are anything but simple. The committee who drafts the Guidelines must sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of reports and research papers pertaining to every part of human nutrition to develop a strategy to combat chronic diseases and obesity. Then, they must take their strategy and apply it to the reality of every day life for people of all walks starting at the age of 2.
The Guidelines are not perfect and they really haven’t changed that much in five years. What I found to be the most significant change was the increased focus on portion control and calorie consumption. It’s no secret that the United States has seen a significant rise in obesity levels and the USDA is trying to course-correct our country. Not a bad idea, really. With a few exceptions, we all could stand to pay more attention to what and how much we eat and how much we exercise.
The 2010 Guidelines are not truly ready for public consumption yet, as they still need to be shaped into documents that make sense in our daily lives, but you can find all sorts of great information here at MyFoodPyramid.gov. For instance, did you know that you can make your own My Pyramid Plan? This is the one I made to help me reach a healthier weight (yep, I packed a few on during the holidays, too). I like that it gives me some basic goals to shoot for with different food groups and suggestions for varying my menu. Following a plan of moderate calorie reduction and increased activity is the single best way to reduce your weight. It won’t happen quickly like most diets, but it will be easier to keep off and maintain over the long term.
For more information on the 2005 and 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, visit www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines.