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March 15, 2011

2010 Dietary Guidelines (DG) for Americans

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

The government recently released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines (DG) for Americans ( ). The DG are revised by a team of nutrition experts every five years and serve as a guidepost for Federally-funded nutrition programs and for all Americans over the age of two.  Here's what the DG had to say.

Overfed and Undernourished

The overarching theme of 2010 report is, put simply: We're overfed and undernourished, and our children are, too.

Even if you and your family aren't overweight, chances are you're missing vital nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and fiber that help reduce the risk for chronic conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis. 

Why do we fall so far short when it comes to good nutrition? Because highly-refined foods laden with added fat and sugars crowd out other, more nutritious choices on a daily basis, leaving you and your family deficient in the nutrients necessary to keep you and your family healthy.  Here's an example.  Most people favor sugary soft drinks, sports drinks, and energy drinks to milk, which is packed with calcium, vitamins A and D, protein, potassium, and B vitamins. Sugary drinks are the top sources of added sugars in the American diet, yet they offer little but extra calories.
So even if you're at a healthy weight, and you feel fine, trouble could be brewing for you health wise because you're missing out on good nutrition. You could be making matters worse if you don't get at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week, which is the amount recommended by the DG.

Include More Nutrient-Rich Foods

Nutrition advice tends to be negative because it focuses on what foods to leave out of your diet.  While the DG stresses that we get far too many of our calories from foods with added solid fats and sugars, the guidelines also offer a positive message about what to eat: Fill up nutrient-rich foods.

Nutrient-rich foods provide the most nutrition for the fewest calories, and include whole grains, fat-free and 1% low-fat milk, such as Hood Milk  and Simply Smart Milks  and yogurt, fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of protein, including eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood.

Nutrient-rich foods help you meet your nutrient quotas without busting your calorie budget with added calories, fat, and sugars. Simple swaps help you to include more nutrient-rich foods on a daily basis:

• Baked potato instead of French fries.

• 93% lean ground beef instead of 85% lean ground beef.

• Roasted chicken instead of chicken nuggets.

• Oatmeal made with Hood Milk  in the microwave instead of a highly-refined, sugary toaster treat. 

• Spinach or Romaine lettuce instead of iceberg.

• 100% fruit juice instead of a fruit drink. 

• Whole grain bread instead of white.

• Popcorn (a whole grain) instead of pretzels.

Slash Sodium Intake If there's one stern warning in the DG, it concerns sodium.  Sodium is linked to higher blood pressure levels in adults, and children. Elevated blood pressure over time is often the cause of heart attack and stroke. 

Most people should limit sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day, about the amount found in one level teaspoon of salt.

The DG recommends other people get far less sodium.   If you're an African American of any age; have high blood pressure or chronic kidney disease; or you're over 51, aim for 1,500 mg daily to help lower your risk for developing high blood pressure.

Salt supplies the majority of the sodium we consume, but the salt shaker is not to blame for the high levels of sodium in the American diet. The salt that's added to processed, packaged, and restaurant foods account for a whopping 75% of our sodium intake.  Cooking more at home, and relying less on salty packaged foods, such as cheese, canned soup, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and snack chips, help to curb sodium consumption.

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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