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U.S. rounds out food pyramid

Amid growing concern about Americans' bulging waistlines, the federal government released new recommendations Wednesday urging people to eat more vegetables and exercise for up to 90 minutes a day to be healthy.

The federal dietary guidelines, revised for the first time in five years, call for an average person to eat 4{ cups of fruits and vegetables a day, eat more whole grains and limit sugar, salt and fat.

"The choices we make every day of what to eat and how much to exercise will really determine how long we live, how much energy we have, and how healthy we really are," said Tommy Thompson, U.S. Health and Human Services secretary. "The dietary guidelines give Americans the information they need to make the right choices."

But in a world larded with fast-food highways and drenched with sugarcoated TV ads, will they hear it?

Scientists praised the guidelines Wednesday but said the question is how to get Americans to follow them. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight, and some estimates say only 12 percent now eat a healthy diet.

"We need more than hopes and prayers to move people to a healthier diet," said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group.

The center called for more federal funds for educational campaigns, limits on junk food advertising to children, removing junk foods from schools, limits on the amount of fat in hot dogs and ground beef, and other measures.

But others said there's only so much the government can do.

"I don't think government is going to solve the obesity problem," said Dr. James Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. "We have a tougher issue, and that's to convince Americans they want to do that."

The guidelines are the basis for the familiar food pyramid. The new recommendations will be used to form a new pyramid _ although it may change to a different shape. The guidelines also are used to guide school lunch menus and federal food programs for the poor.

Hill said that overall, the guidelines are "fantastic," but he took issue with the recommendation that Americans should exercise moderately 60 minutes a day to prevent weight gain. Moderate exercise could be walking 3 to 4.5 mph, bicycling 5 to 9 mph, gardening or scrubbing the floor.

The guidelines call for even more exercise, up to 90 minutes a day, to sustain weight loss. That departs from advice many experts give to exercise up to 60 minutes a day to lose weight.

"I don't think we have any good data about that," Hill said. "An hour is going to seem insurmountable, and people won't even try."

But Thompson insisted that can be done.

"It is not too hard," he said at a Washington news conference. "You can get up tonight. Tonight. Everybody in this room only (eat) half the dessert and then go out and walk around the block, and if you're going to watch television get down and do 10 pushups and five situps. And you know something? You will feel better; in a little while you'll be able to do 20."

People need to recognize, Thompson said, that there is no magic pill for weight loss, and that it takes "personal intuition and initiative to get the job done."

In some ways, the new guidelines are similar to the old. They emphasize fruits and vegetables and say more calories should come from grains than proteins and dairy products.

But in a document that is so widely distributed, even small changes are hotly debated. Nutritionists have talked for months about what the guidelines would say about how much sugar is too much, and feared officials would give in to industry pressures. The final version says to limit sugar, but the key recommendations don't give a specific amount.

Still, even that is a step forward, said Dr. Carlos Camargo, a member of the advisory committee that prepared the draft guidelines.

"I've never seen a document from the government that's telling people to choose a drink without added sugars," said Camargo, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

The final document reflects science more than political pressures, said Jacobson, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. But, he added, he thinks government officials have been reluctant to do more to educate consumers and regulate the food industry because of political pressures.

"It's so urgent we tackle this problem, and it's so sad government isn't willing to do this," he said. "The reason is obvious: because there are industries whose oxes will be gored."

Camargo and Jacobson said the new guidelines will force major changes in the food pyramid, which groups foods by categories and recommends servings in each one. It doesn't draw distinctions between Ritz crackers and couscous, or chicken-fried steak and grilled salmon. "The current guide is ridiculous," Jacobson said. "High fat cheese in with skim milk . . . beans with pot roast . . . it doesn't really make sense."

"The food pyramid will be no more, and that's a big change," Camargo said.

One of the best changes is switching from abstract "servings" to more concrete measures, such as cups and ounces, said Lois Babione, nutritionist and diabetes educator at the University of South Florida College of Medicine.

"I think that's a more clear message," she said. "They were not well understood."

SAMPLE DIET PLAN

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services together with the U.S. Department of Agr unveiled new dietary guidelines. This is a sample eating plan, originally designed to co that meets the recommendations of the guidelines. It is based on a daily 2,000 calorie d depending on your caloric needs:

GRAINS

7-8 servings

+ 1 slice bread, 1 oz dry cereal, 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta or cereal

+ Whole wheat bread, English muffin, pita bread, bagel, cereals, grits, unsalted pretzels, oatmeal, popcorn, crackers

+ Major sources of energy and fiber.

VEGETABLES

4-5 servings

+ 1 cup raw leafy vegetable, 1/2 cup cooked vegetable, 6-oz vegetable juice

+ Tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, green peas, squash, broccoli, turnip greens, collards, spinach

+ Rich sources of fiber, potassium and magnesium.

FRUITS

4-5 servings

+ 6 oz fruit juice, 1 medium fruit, 1/4 cup dried fruit, 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned

+ Apricots, bananas, dates, grapes, oranges, orange juice, grapefruit, grapefruit juice, melons, raisins

+ Important sources of fiber potassium and magnesium.

LOW-FAT / FAT-FREE DAIRY

2-3 servings

+ 8 oz milk, 1 cup yogurt, 1 1/2 oz cheese

+ Fat-free or low-fat: milk, buttermilk, regular or yogurt and cheese

+ Major sources of calcium and protein.

MEAT, POULTRY, FISH

2 or less servings

+ 3 oz cooked meats, poultry or fish

+ Select only lean; trim away visible fats; broil, roast or boil instead of frying; remove skin from poultry

+ Rich sources of protein and magnesium.

NUTS, SEEDS, LEGUMES

4-5 servings

+ 1/3 cup or 1 1/2 oz nuts, 2 Tbsp or 1/2 oz seeds, 1/2 cup cooked dry beans or peas

+ Almonds, mixed nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, lentils

+ Rich sources of energy, magnesium, potassium, protein and fiber.

FATS, OILS

2-3 servings/week

+ 1 tsp soft margarine, 1 Tbsp lowfat mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp light salad dressing, 1 Tbsp vegetable oil

+ Soft margarine, low-fat mayonnaise, light salad dressing, vegetable oils

+ Diet has 27% calories as fat, low in saturated fat.

SWEETS

5 servings/week

+ 1 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp jelly or jam, 1/2 oz jelly beans, 8 oz lemonade

+ Maple syrup, sugar, j jam, fruitflavored ge jelly beans, hard candy punch, sorbet

+ Should be low in fat

HOW MANY CALORIES DO YOU NEED?

To help maintain a healthy weight know your body]s daily calorie needs. Here are a few sample profiles:

Man

Age: 36

Weight: 175

Height: 5'11"

Exercise: less than 1 hour a day

Calories: 2,306

Woman

Age: 25

Weight: 110

Height: 5'3"

Exercise: more than 1 hour a day

Calories: 2,542

FIND OUT MORE ONLINE

Information on the new dietary guidelines and calorie serving sizes: http://www.healthierus.gov/ dietaryguidelines/

To calculate your calorie needs: http://www.bcm.edu/cnrc/ caloriesneed.htm

Source: USDA

WHAT'S NEW

MORE EXERCISE: Now 30-60 minutes a day for adults to maintain proper weight.

MORE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES: Old guidelines say 5-9 servings; now 4{ cups.

MEASURING: Counts with cups and ounces, instead of current pyramid's "servings."

More on new guidelines, PAGE 14A

WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

KEEP IT WHOLE: Long the base of the pyramid, now half of your grains (bread, pasta, rice) need to be whole.

KEEN ON LEAN: The new guidelines make it clear that lean protein is best, especially baked, broiled or grilled.

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