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Posts Tagged ‘ Sodium ’

The New Dietary Guidelines Recommend Eating More Fruits and Vegetables, Less Added Sugar and Saturated Fat

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “The new dietary guidelines recommend eating more fruits and vegetables, less added sugar and saturated fat.”

You can also read it HERE.

dga-2015

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released earlier this month. The guidelines, updated every five years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are based on the latest research in nutrition science and serve as a basis for federal nutrition policy.

They also help to set the tone for how we should eat. The current guidelines recommend that Americans consume a “healthy eating pattern” consisting of more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limiting added sugar, salt and saturated fat.

Here are several key take away messages.

1. Focus on healthy eating patterns.

For the first time, the report emphasizes that Americans focus on foods and healthy eating patterns as opposed to individual food groups and nutrients. I commend this as we do not eat individual nutrients in isolation, but rather a diet composed of foods, which forms an eating pattern.

According to the guidelines, a healthy eating pattern consists of a diet with more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy; and less added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. The guidelines emphasize a variety of vegetables from the different subgroups (think colorful!) and half of all grains should be whole grains including oatmeal, quinoa, and whole grain breads, for example. Sorry Paleo lovers! Dairy and healthy grains are indeed part of a healthy diet.

2. Added sugar

This is the first time the committee made a specific recommendation for limiting added sugar. Too much sugar is linked to obesity and chronic disease and as a nation, we eat too much, with soft drink being a major contributor.

The guidelines recommend a daily intake of 10 percent of calories, which amounts to around 12 teaspoons of sugar, for a 2,000-calorie diet. This translates into just a tad more than a can of soda. Yikes!

We currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices and other sugary drinks. So, for a first step, I suggest skipping these sugary beverages.

As a nutritionist advising clients, I often get asked about eating fruit. Added sugar is NOT the same as naturally occurring sugar so you can enjoy fruit. All fruit fits into a healthy diet; however, I suggest skipping the juice and eating the whole fruit instead. Fruit is higher in fiber, contains a greater water quantity, and therefore, is lower in calories than the juice. As I say, “While I don’t suggest eating unlimited amounts, no one got fat eating fruit.

3. Saturated fat

Despite some observations that saturated fats are not linked to heart disease, the guidelines advise, like they did in previous editions, to limit saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of calories. Saturated fat is found in red meat, fried foods, butter, and full-fat dairy. The guidelines further recommend that teenaged and adult males should reduce their consumption of protein including meats because of heart disease, some types of cancer, and other health concerns. I think this advice should actually be embraced by the rest of us.

4. Cholesterol

The guidelines dropped its long recommendation that Americans limit their intake of dietary cholesterol from foods such as eggs and shellfish to no more than 300 mg per day. (One egg contains nearly 200 mg cholesterol.) However, the report also states that we should eat as little cholesterol as possible. This advice appears to be confusing. While the cholesterol recommendation is not in the headlines, the report does, indeed, recommend minimizing our consumption and says to limit cholesterol to 100-300 mg/day. So no, you cannot eat an unlimited quantity of eggs.

Also, since many foods high in saturated fats also contain cholesterol, if we reduce our saturated fat intake, this will probably help us lower our dietary cholesterol.

5. Sodium

The guidelines say we should consume no more than 2,300 mg sodium, which is no change since the 2010 edition. The report also advises that certain people include those with hypertension and diabetes — which comprise nearly two-thirds of us — further reduce sodium to 1,500 mg.

2,300 mg sodium translates into just one teaspoon of salt. So we certainly should throw away the salt shaker. We should also limit foods high in sodium including deli meats, breads, soups, and pizza. One great way to limit our salt intake is to eat less processed food and to cook more.

6. Portion control

While the previous edition of the guidelines advised us to “avoid oversize portions,” this edition says “focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount.” Since many restaurant portions are oversize and contain far more calories than most of us need, I do not think that the 2015-2200 guidelines emphasized portion control and calories nearly enough. Especially with obesity still on the rise.

Buried in the report, however, the feds do suggest reducing portions of sugar-sweetened beverages and decreasing portion sizes of grain-based and dairy desserts and sweet snacks.

So here’s my advice: With the exception of fruits and veggies, watch your portion size, and don’t eat and drink too much.

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Unrealistic serving sizes

Unrealistic serving sizes

Do you know anyone who eats only ¾ cup cereal, ½ cup of ice cream, or 1 cup of soup at a sitting? Probably not. Even children eat more than that.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group in Washington, is urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise its serving-size regulations as many people underestimate serving size.

Labels for canned soup, ice cream, coffee creamer and non-stick cooking sprays understate the calories and sodium consumers are likely to eat. Canned soup, in particular, presents a clear example of how unrealistic the stated serving sizes are. Labels for Campbell’s Chunky Classic Chicken Noodle soup, for example, indicate that a serving size is 1 cup — a little less than half a can with 790 milligrams of sodium. But in a telephone survey commissioned by CSPI, 64 percent of consumers surveyed said they would eat the whole can at one time and only 10 percent of consumers say they eat a 1-cup portion!  Chances are you are getting closer to 1500 mg sodium. Ice cream serving sizes are also unrealistic. The serving size is a half-cup of ice cream—a quarter of a pint.  However, many people eat closer to a whole cup. And some people probably eat an entire pint.

In my experience counseling overweight patients, and as I wrote in my book The Portion Teller Plan, so many people underestimate how many calories they consume, in part because people think that a serving is whatever amount they eat, and pay little attention to the amount of food listed on a package label. And since typical portions have grown in size, the amount of food you usually buy these days is much more than the amount listed on a package label. After all, I have never seen an ice cream shop sell ½ cup serving. (And if they did, consumers would probably complain!) Kiddie sizes usually contain at least 1 cup of ice cream.

Anahad O’Conner from The New York Times has an excellent summary.  The foods shown above, from the NYT article, are typically underestimated by many consumers.  http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/02/the-problem-with-serving-sizes/?ref=health

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Where’s the salt?

Where’s the salt?

Last week, the government unveiled the 2010 issue of the Dietary Guidelines,  and watching our sodium content took center stage. So we know that we need to get rid of the salt shaker. Salt is composed of sodium and chloride, and 1 teaspoon of salt contains 2300 mg sodium. Sounds like a little or  lot!? Just one teaspoon of salt contains more sodium than half of us should eat for the entire day.

Under the new guidelines, nearly half of the US population should consume less than 1500 mg sodium. This includes adults 51 and over, children, African Americans, and those with hypertension, kidney disease and diabetes. The rest of us can have up to 2300 mg of sodium per day.

Clearly, we need to ditch f the salt shaker! But sodium is lurking in so many other commonly consumed foods. Here is the sodium content found in some  favorites foods:

Breakfast:

A bagel with lox and cream cheese contains 1905 mg sodium. The bagel alone contains over 600 mg! Who would have thought?

Lunch:

A turkey sandwich on rye with mustard and mayo contains 1948 mg sodium

Dinner:

A pasta portion with tomato sauce contains 1260 mg sodium, and that is for the meatless version!!

That totals 5113 mg! Oy. And that is without snacks.

Here are some tips:

Get rid of the salt shaker.

Avoid processed foods.

Choose MORE fresh fruits and vegetables which are naturally very low in sodium.

Read food labels for the sodium content.

Cook at home more often and use oregano, black pepper, and other spices.

Let’s hope the food industry reduces the sodium in chips and other packaged foods. Some food companies have, indeed, made such promises. But remember, a reduced-sodium bag of chips is not health food and still contains sodium, and an apple (or another food not found in a package) would be a healthier choice.

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New Dietary Guidelines: Eat Less

Dietary 2010 Guidelines just released


The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were just released yesterday.   The Dietary Guidelines are updated every five years and released jointly by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). While many of the recommendations are similar to those previously issued, 2 new messages stand out: eat less and a focus on consuming less salt. As a nutritionist who has been advocating portion control for many years, I was pleased to see the government’s recommendation to “avoid oversized portions.”

Here are selected messages for consumers which were posted yesterday on the government’s website. They are categorized in 3 areas.

Balancing Calories

• Enjoy your food, but eat less.

• Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase

• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Foods to Reduce

• Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals—and choose the foods with lower numbers.

• Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

I downloaded the entire report–a lengthy 95 pages. The Appendix has a table on key consumer behaviors and strategies for professionals which I think will prove useful. Here are some of their tips:

  • Plan ahead to make better food choices.
  • Track food and calorie intake.
  • Cook and eat more meals at home.
  • Reduce portions, especially of high-fat foods.
  • Limit screen time
  • Increase physical activity

Here is a clip from CBS News with Katie Couric which aired last night at 6:30. (I am featured.)

Here is an article just in from the New York Times.

Take home tip: you can enjoy your foods but be sure to watch your portions.

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