What Americans Should Be Eating (and why you shouldn’t follow the government’s guidelines)

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What Americans Should Be Eating (and why you shouldn’t follow the government’s guidelines)It seems as though every time I turn around, there are some new regulations or recommendations regarding what I should be eating every day.

Well, this could be good or bad depending on what the recommendations actually are as well as the state of your health, your lifestyle dynamics, and your own preferences. However, typically, the usefulness and health benefits of such new recommendations depend on the source, as they can be quite biased at times.

So, to make things easier for you, here is a rundown of the newest recommendations put forth by the Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published every five years, provides general information on what you should be eating for optimal health based on the advice of an advisory committee of 13 experts.

The main recommendations are as follows…

Eat Fewer Calories

Most people require approximately 1,800–2,400 calories every day to maintain their proper weight. People in the U.S. generally eat too much every day, and this can be seen in their caloric intakes. To lose weight, reduce the number of calories you consume and increase your exercise. These may seem like old recommendations, but they are first on the list, as the obesity epidemic continues to rage out of control in the U.S. Having said that, where the calories come from in your diet is much more important than the total number consumed.

Eat More Plants

It’s true that most people need to eat more fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables in place of other high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods. If Americans did this, their calories would be coming from the right places, which would enhance their health instead of detracting from it. More fiber, more antioxidants, and a better source of carbohydrates all translates into risk reductions for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Eat More Fish

This is another recommendation I support. The panel’s experts suggest you eat two servings of fish or seafood every week. It’s a heart-healthy rule and it will play a meaningful role in reducing your risk of heart disease.

Low-Fat Dairy

While many may switch to low-fat dairy products to reduce their weight, there is no evidence that saturated fat from the intake of higher-fat dairy products causes obesity or heart disease. Americans are not becoming obese and sick because they eat too many higher-fat dairy products. Old recommendations die a hard death it seems.

Eat Moderate Amounts of Lean Meat, Eggs, and Poultry

Fear regarding protein intake is still alive and well in the U.S. According the government panel’s experts, only three ounces of lean meat, eggs, and poultry counts as a serving sizebut we can eat two cups of rice or pasta with that? This is limited thinking. Refined carbohydrates, takeout foods, and sugar are causing most of the health problems in the U.S., not protein. Diets that have a higher percentage of calories from lean proteins relative to carbohydrates are superior at reducing health risks.

Reduce the Intake of Sugar and Solid Fats

Yes to the sugar—it should be completely avoided—but avoiding all fats, thinking, they’re just as bad as butter, is not the answer. Consume more extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and modest amounts of coconut oil in place of butter or margarine. This will help you further reduce any health risk factors. People don’t get fat and die too soon because of a chronic disease caused by just eating too much butter.

Reduce Sodium and Refined Grains

Yes to both of these recommendations. Reducing your intake of refined grains and sugar really needs to be up front and center when it comes to these recommendations, not placed after the recommendations of which foods you should be eating more of. Most Americans should avoid these high-sodium, high-sugar, refined grain foods completely. If you introduce healthier foods into your diet but continue to eat refined carbohydrates and sugar, nothing will change.


This was the expert panel’s last recommendation… It should have been their first!

Source for Today’s Article:
Micco, N., “What should Americans eat? Experts announce 8 new food ‘rules,’” Eating Well web site, June 21, 2010; http://www.eatingwell.com/blogs/health_blog/what_should_americans_eat_experts_announce_8_new_food_rules, last accessed July 22, 2014.