New dietary guidelines will promote better health

For those of you that don’t know about the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, let me summarize what they are. The Dietary Guidelines are jointly issued and updated every five years by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. They provide authoritative advice for people 2 years and older about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines remain the current guidance until the 2010 Dietary Guidelines are published.

A copy of the Advisory Committee Report on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAC) can be viewed by going to The timetable for publishing the new guidelines is set for fall 2010, so we can keep our eyes open for completion. Although the advisory committee report is long and comprehensive, the Executive Summary highlights the findings. Here’s a portion of what is addressed:

“The 2010 DGAC report concludes that good health and optimal functionality across the life span are achievable goals but require a lifestyle approach including a total diet that is energy-balanced and nutrient-dense. Now, as in the past, a disconnect exists between dietary recommendations and what Americans actually consume. On average, Americans of all ages consume too few vegetables, fruits, high-fiber whole grains, low-fat milk and milk products, and seafood, and they eat too much added sugars, solid fats, refined grains and sodium. SoFAS (added sugars and solid fats) contribute approximately 35 percent of calories to the American diet.

“The four major findings that emerged from the DGAC’s review of the scientific evidence articulate steps that can be taken to help all Americans adopt health-promoting nutrition and physical activity guidelines:

  • Reduce the incidence and prevalence of overweight and obesity of the U.S. population by reducing overall calorie intake and increasing physical activity.
  • Shift food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. In addition, increase the intake of seafood and fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products and consume only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry and eggs.
  • Significantly reduce intake of foods containing added sugars and solid fats because these dietary components contribute excess calories and few, if any, nutrients. In addition, reduce sodium intake and lower intake of refined grains, especially refined grains that are coupled with added sugar, solid fat and sodium.
  • Meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
  • Change is needed in the overall food environment to support the efforts of all Americans to meet the key recommendations. To meet these challenges, the following sustainable changes must occur:
  • Improve nutrition literacy and cooking skills, including safe food-handling skills, and empower and motivate the population, especially families with children, to prepare and consume healthy foods at home.
  • Increase comprehensive health, nutrition and physical education programs and curricula in U.S. schools and preschools, including food preparation, food safety, cooking, and physical education classes and improved quality of recess.
  • For all Americans, especially those with low income, create greater financial incentives to purchase, prepare and consume vegetables and fruit, whole grains, seafood, fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products, lean meats and other healthy foods.
  • Improve the availability of affordable fresh produce through greater access to grocery stores, produce trucks and farmers’ markets.
  • Increase environmentally sustainable production of vegetables, fruits and fiber-rich whole grains.
  • Ensure household food security through measures that provide access to adequate amounts of foods that are nutritious and safe to eat.
  • Develop safe, effective and sustainable practices to expand aquaculture and increase the availability of seafood to all segments of the population. Enhance access to publicly available, user-friendly benefit/risk information that helps consumers make informed seafood choices.
  • Encourage restaurants and the food industry to offer health-promoting foods that are low in sodium; limited in added sugars, refined grains and solid fats; and served in smaller portions.

“Implement the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan, a private-public sector collaborative promoting local, state and national programs and policies to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary activity ( Through the Plan and other initiatives, develop efforts across all sectors of society, including health care and public health; education; business and industry; mass media; parks, recreation, fitness, and sports; transportation, land use and community design; and volunteer and nonprofit. Reducing screen time, especially television, for all Americans also will be important.”

We are fortunate in Douglas County. Currently, there are many initiatives across our county that are addressing many of these challenges. But it will take all of us, working together, to make these changes sustainable.

— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.


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