Government Releases New "Dietary Guidelines for Americans"

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Government Releases New "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" Government Releases New "Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
Lifestyle

Government Releases New "Dietary Guidelines for Americans"

by Nicola Twilley

February 3, 2011

This morning, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius held a press conference to release the 2010 "Dietary Guidelines for Americans." The document represents the official federal advice on nutrition—which foods to eat, in what quantity, and which to avoid—and it is updated by law every 5 years. It's a pretty big deal, because its recommendations influence all government food programs, such as school meals, Meals on Wheels, regulatory decisions, and consumer tools, such as the ubiquitous food pyramid.

Even more importantly, in my opinion, they devote a whole chapter of the report to the healthy eating challenges posed by America's obesogenic environment. While nutrition advice naturally puts the emphasis on individual responsibility, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, for the first time, are explicit about the fact that Americans have to make dietary choices "within the context of an environment that promotes over-consumption of calories and discourages physical activity." Their recommendations in this section involve systemic change, which means that they will be the hardest to implement, and also, I would predict, the most effective:

To reverse these trends, a coordinated system-wide approach is needed—an approach that engages all sectors of society, including individuals and families, educators, communities and organizations, health professionals, small and large businesses, and policymakers.

Among the strategies included are retail partnerships to increase food access, new transportation policies to encourage physical activity, and restrictions on food and beverage marketing to children. In the coming months, as the government rolls out a new pyramid and new policies based on the report, I'll be watching for progress on these system-wide changes with particular interest. Meanwhile, you can download the entire report as a PDF—if you do (and I'd recommend it—it has some interesting-looking tables and charts), I'd love to hear what else you find.

All images taken from "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010," USDA and US Department of Health and Human Services.

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