New Dietary Pointers: 5 Issues Nutritionists Need To Know – Life-style – Aurora Advertiser – Aurora, MO
New federal dietary guidelines are encouraging Americans to focus more on eating healthy, eating flexibly, and reducing empty calories throughout life.
The recommendations, published every five years by the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, are designed to promote nutrition and prevent chronic diseases. The guidelines influence food and nutrition programs at the federal, state, and local levels and affect how food companies formulate their products.
“The high prevalence of diabetes, cancer and heart disease could be reduced if people eat better,” said Judith Wylie-Rosett, professor of health promotion and nutritional research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. “Chronic illnesses are often linked to obesity and poor eating habits.”
Here are five key takeaways from nutritionists:
There is flexibility to customize
The recommendations emphasize that healthy eating comes in many forms and can be tailored to suit cultural traditions, personal tastes, and different budgets.
For example, swapping out red meat doesn’t mean people have to crowd out their least preferred source of protein.
“You can eat a plant-based diet or eat seafood, poultry and legumes instead of red meat,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, a distinguished professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.
The new focus on adapting to culture, budget and personal preferences differs from the previous uniform approach of the guidelines for healthy eating.
“Customizing the message makes people make choices, which means they are more likely to be able to make changes,” said Wylie-Rosett. “In the past the guidelines were aimed at the majority and we are moving towards a minority majority population. We must respect and take into account the needs of diversity in our society. “
Limit empty calories
For the first time, the guidelines state that children under the age of 2 should completely avoid foods and drinks with added sugar such as cakes, ice cream, and fruit drinks.
The guidelines for added sugars remain otherwise unchanged, however, despite a report by the Advisory Committee on Dietary Guidelines last summer calling on everyone aged 2 and over to reduce their consumption from the currently recommended 10% to 6% of daily calories.
Similarly, the guidelines adhered to previous alcohol recommendations – no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women in adults who choose to drink. The advisory board had suggested that men limit alcohol to just one drink a day.
Alcohol is not recommended for adults who are not already drinking, and guidelines should avoid pregnant women entirely.
“Sugar and alcohol have no diet at all,” said Kris-Etherton. Sugar is often added to a variety of foods that you might not expect, including bottled spaghetti sauce, ketchup, breads, and cereal. It’s important to read the nutrition labels and choose foods accordingly, she said.
It’s never too late (or too early)
For the first time, the guidelines contain recommendations “by stage of life, from birth to older adulthood”. For example, babies should only have breast milk for the first six months of life. If breastfeeding is not an option, babies should be given iron-fortified infant formula.
Additionally, the guidelines recognize that people aged 60 and over have slightly different nutritional needs. For example, vitamin B12 deficiencies are more common in the elderly because the ability to absorb the nutrient naturally decreases with age, but it can also decrease due to certain medications. Older adults are encouraged to consume the recommended amount of protein, a common source of B12, as well as foods fortified with B12.
Look at the big picture
Food is not consumed in isolation, but consumed in a variety of combinations over time – a nutritional scheme.
The idea, said Wylie-Rosett, is to eat a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables instead of focusing on specific nutrients. For example, beta-carotene is a plant pigment and antioxidant found in carrots and other vegetables.
“There are over 600 carotenoids, but the only one we’re talking about is beta-carotene,” she said. “We created our nutritional guides to avoid deficiencies. (But) we need to focus on optimal health.”
To do this, the guidelines recommend that people vary their protein source, fill half their plate with a mix of different fruits and vegetables, choose low-fat dairy or soy alternatives, and avoid foods high in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
To get you started, the USDA offers MyPlate Plan, an online tool that makes recommendations based on age, gender, height, weight, and activity level.
“Let every bite count”
The theme of the 164-page guideline is “Every bite counts”. That means avoiding high-calorie junk foods like potato chips, cookies, and high-calorie (and low-nutrient) fast foods in favor of healthier options, Kris-Etherton said.
Think of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Vegetable oils instead of butter or coconut oil; and low-fat dairy products and leaner proteins.
The guidelines offer various ideas for making dishes healthier. For example, shave calories off a burrito bowl by using low-fat cheese and adding vegetables instead of rice and beans. Choose brown rice instead of white rice to add fiber so you feel full and are more likely to skip dessert.
“If you replenish all the right foods, you don’t want the other foods because you are full and satisfied,” said Kris-Etherton.
And the benefits multiply, said Kris-Etherton. People are likely to sleep better, be less stressed, and have more energy to exercise.
“It just goes on and on,” she said. “Good nutrition really helps with general well-being.”