New USDA Guidelines Emphasize Exercise and Weight Loss
The new federal dietary guidelines issued on January 12, 2005, focus more than ever on physical activity and weight control as a major contributor to good health. While previous guidelines included physical activity on the list, the emphasis has grown—right alongside the American public’s waistlines. Often referencing the typical American diet’s shortfalls among their recommendations, the report reads like a wake-up call.
Citing statistics and scientific studies about our overweight status and the resulting diseases, the report doesn’t mince words: we need to lose weight. While the previous recommendation was a half-hour of exercise every day, this is now considered the minimum to prevent chronic disease. But to keep from gaining weight, 60-90 minutes of exercise each day is recommended.
“The new Dietary Guidelines highlight the principle that Americans should keep their weight within healthful limits and engage in ample physical activity,” says Agriculture Secretary Ann W. Veneman. “The process we used to develop these recommendations was more rigorous and more transparent than ever before. Taken together, the recommendations will help consumers make smart choices from every food group, get the most nutrition out of the calories consumed and find a balance between eating and physical activity.”
The report also includes a directive to decrease portion sizes (which have steadily increased in size over the years), to eat fewer calories, and stock up on low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and – of course – fruits and vegetables (four and a half cups per day for a 2,000-calorie diet). And an increase in these foods should accompany a decrease in consumption of less nutrient-dense foods.
The guidelines, which are put out by the Agriculture Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, are the latest of the five-year dietary reviews required by law since 1980. This spring, the government will release a new version of the Food Guide Pyramid to dovetail with these guidelines.
While many in the food and health industries consider the guidelines a leap forward for the government, others are disappointed that no limits were set on the consumption of trans fats and added sugars – although the report does recommend that people limit their consumption of them. Specifically, it states, “Choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners.” Overall, many in the health industry are pleased. Now comes the hard part: putting the guidelines into practice. Read the guidelines.
Writer: Sydney Maupin, Staff Writer
Sources: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, www.health.gov