“Eat less!” says the government

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It makes you wonder why it’s taken the government so long to say the obvious to a nation of people two-thirds of whom are obese, “Eat less!” Finally they’ve said it in their latest nutrition guidelines that came out on Monday.

Along with those blunt words come equally blunt words naming names – drink “water” instead of “soda.” Oh, my.

Of course I wonder what finally got the government to get with the program given the entrenched powerful food lobbyists in Washington who cannot be pleased. Not when the government says eat more nutritionally dense foods.

As for general dietary recommendations regarding what to eat, those haven’t changed: eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains and less salt and saturated fat. 

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest remarks how much more valuable these guidelines are than the “big vague messages” of, well, …hmmm…only last year. She cites before these new guidelines just issued that the message was to eat more vegetables which could have meant adding a slice of tomato to your hamburger. Now the recommendation is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Of course I know a lot of diabetes educators and dietitians who’ve been saying that for years. It’s called the “Plate Method” and is an easy way to create a healthy meal.

Many food manufacturers have recently begun reconfiguring their recipes to cut down on added sodium. Will restaurants now cut down on portions? When I eat out, I typically share an appetizer and take half my dinner home. 

As obvious as the government’s recommendation is, equally obvious, at least to me, is it will not be easy to do this unless everything around us supports eating less. For instance, government farm policies need to be overhauled to provide incentives for farmers to plant more fruits and vegetables. Prices for them need to drop and access to them needs to rise. School cafeteria food needs to change, airport kiosks need to have healthier options etcetera, etcetera.

But I’m pleased. After decades of the government, like in the fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, saying what beautiful clothes the naked Emperor is wearing, federal regulators have finally put on their glasses and declared,  “hmmm…you look a little naked there Emperor.” 

You can read more in, “Government’s Dietary Advice: Eat Less,” in the NY Times.

 

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