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Posts Tagged ‘ USDA ’

Nutrition panel urges American’s to eat green, limit sugar, drink coffee and more

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post on the new report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC):  Nutrition Panel urges American’s to eat green , limit sugar, drink coffee and more.

You can also read it HERE.

new report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which convenes every five years and advises the federal government on the official dietary guidelines, calls for some changes to the American diet.

The purpose of the Advisory Report is to inform the government on the scientific evidence related to diet and nutrition. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) jointly write the Dietary Guidelines, which are due out later this year.

According to the DGAC:

… about half of all American adults — 117 million individuals — have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, and about two-thirds of U.S. adults — nearly 155 million individuals — are overweight or obese … Poor dietary patterns, over consumption of calories, and physical inactivity directly contribute to these disorders.

Americans eat too much sugar, saturated fat, and salt. We don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and fish.

The report further states that:

… individual nutrition and physical activity behaviors and other health-related lifestyle behaviors are strongly influenced by personal, social, organizational, and environmental contexts and systems. Positive changes in individual diet and physical activity behaviors, and in the environmental contexts and systems that affect them, could substantially improve health outcomes.

The report by the committee eased certain restrictions (those for cholesterol, total fat, and coffee) and stressed limits for other restrictions (such as those for added sugar and saturated fat).

Rather than obsess over individual nutrients, the committee urges Americans to strive for a healthy dietary pattern: a diet with more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seafood, and low- or non-fat dairy, and less red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, and refined grains.

According to Dr. Marion Nestle, my NYU colleague, author, and nutrition policy expert: “The DGAC has produced an honest, straightforward, courageous report thoroughly based on research and at long last without mincing words.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C., also supports the report and issued the following statement:

The report of the DGAC is mostly unchanged from the reports of 2010 and years past, and in the ways it differs, the changes are mostly for the better. Contrary to some media accounts, the pendulum is not swinging wildly back and forth on most of these scientific questions; the basic advice to eat less saturated fat, sugar, and salt, and to eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, is largely the same.

Here are some of the committee’s key recommendations.

SUSTAINABILITY

The committee, for the first time, urges American’s to eat green.

The report recommends that the government consider the environment — along with their heart, of course — when advising Americans about what they should eat.

The panel wrote “The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.”

This move could have a significant impact on how much meat people eat. Not surprisingly, the meat industry called the report “flawed” and “nonsensical.”

ADDED SUGAR

The committee stressed that Americans consume too much added sugar and recommended a daily intake of 10 percent of calories, which amounts to around 12 teaspoons for a 2,000-calorie diet. To put this in perspective, “12 teaspoons of sugar” is just a tad more than a can of soda. Americans currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices and other sugary drinks. This is why the report recommends that Americans drink water instead of sugary beverages such as soda.

Previous dietary guidelines have included warnings about eating too much added sugar, but this is the first time the committee made a specific recommendation for limiting sugar. Indeed, too much sugar is linked to obesity and chronic disease.

The CSPI welcomed the DGAC suggestions to consume less sugar along with the report’s blunt advice to drink fewer sugary drinks. They said, “The strong recommendations on added sugars are important and have far-reaching policy implications.”

I also applaud the recommendation for limiting added sugar along with environmental and policy changes like those suggested by the committee. As I toldFood Navigator, “The DGAC report supports the possibility of soda taxes as an incentive to promote purchasing healthier beverages, policy changes for SNAP…and limiting food marketing to kids, all steps in the right direction to promote a healthier food environment.”

The American Beverage Association (ABA), however, issued a different sentiment on restricting sugar and sugary drinks. According to Food Navigator, the ABA said: “Numerous studies have shown that restricting one food or food group is not the best approach for achieving calorie balance and maintain a healthy weight.”

Indeed, drinking less soda would be bad for their business.

FAT

The Committee is recommending that we limit saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of total calories. Saturated fat may promote heart disease by elevating blood cholesterol levels. Americans are urged to eat unsaturated fat — found in nuts, fatty fish, olive and vegetable oil — instead of saturated fat, found in red meat, cheese, butter, coconut, and palm kernel oil. While many celebrities and Atkins devotee’s heavily promote both coconut and red meat, the committee report advocates the contrary.

The DGAC, however, dropped a suggestion from previous guidelines to restrict total fat intake to no more than 35 percent of daily total calories. While previous editions of the Dietary Guidelines have advised Americans to eat a low-fat diet, the committee suggests that reducing total fat intake does not appear to decrease our risk for heart disease. Rather, replacing saturated fat with refined carbohydrates — including low-fat cookies and cakes — increases our disease risk.

CHOLESTEROL

The committee 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.) The committee cites research showing that cholesterol from the diet has little or no effect on blood cholesterol levels for most people.

Dr. Nestle, however, wrote a thought-provoking blog post raising several important points on the research. She states, “I’m wondering if research sponsored by the egg industry could have anything to do with this.” Furthermore, she writes, “if the Advisory Committee is dropping the cholesterol recommendation, could it be because so many people are taking statins that dietary cholesterol doesn’t appear to matter so much anymore?” These are certainly points to consider.

COFFEE

If you enjoy several cups of coffee, you are in luck. The committee advised that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee per day (or up to 400 mg of caffeine) is okay. However, I suggest you watch the size of your mug to partake healthfully in those “five cups of coffee.” As I told Food Navigator, “3-5 cups translates into 2-3 Starbucks-sized cups … I worry that the public may think they can drink more coffee than the guidelines really suggest. Education on serving size is necessary here…”

Finally, will the feds accept these recommendations, and how will we implement them?

The DGAC report states:

It will take concerted, bold actions on the part of individuals, families, communities, industry, and government to achieve and maintain the healthy diet patterns and the levels of physical activity needed to promote the health of the U.S. population. These actions will require a paradigm shift to an environment in which population health is a national priority and where individuals and organizations, private business, and communities work together to achieve a population-wide “culture of health” in which healthy lifestyle choices are easy, accessible, affordable, and normative — both at home and away from home.

According to Dr. Nestle, a former member of the DGAC:

Whether the agencies — USDA and HHS — will accept its recommendations remains to be seen. Congress has already weighed in and said that the Dietary Guidelines cannot consider sustainability in making dietary advice. Much will depend on the response to the call for public comments.

Stay tuned.

We would love to hear our thoughts on the DGAC report. And you can tell the gov’t what you think by weighing in here.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Federal serving sizes exceed typical portions: 10 tips to avoid portion distortion

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, Federal serving sizes differ from typical portion: 10 tips to avoid portion distortion.

You can also read it HERE.

As a portion-size researcher, I have been tracking trends in growing food portions and how they compare to federal standards. As I have written in my book The Portion Teller Plan and demonstrated in my research papers, food portions have increased considerably over the past 50 years, continue to increase despite public health messages urging us to eat less, and greatly exceed federal standards. In addition to the implications for obesity that larger portions have (big portions contain more calories than small portions and can lead to weight gain), educating consumers on how to relate typical portions to federal standards has become increasingly more difficult.

Now, new research commissioned by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) of the U.K. has found that typical portions have changed over the past 20 years and the European guidance on portion sizes is out of date. The U.K. government has recommended that the food industry display per portion values on the front of a package label for calories, fat, sugar and salt. However, according to the new research, the information on the food labels are no longer based on realistic serving sizes.

The researchers write,

The portion size of several products — including single serve packets of crisps, portions of corn flakes and cheddar cheese — are all identical to the information provided twenty years ago…
However, this pattern is not reflected across the products analyzed as a whole, with some showing considerable growth since 1993. In particular, certain bread products and all of the ready meals analyzed showed substantial growth in portion size — as much as 98 percent for one ready meal.

The researchers also note that consumers are confused about portion sizes. Consumers tend to eat bigger portions and overestimate how much they should actually be eating.

As Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the BHF writes “Our research shows there is no meaningful understanding of what is an appropriate portion size. The size of some portions has doubled, while others are so varied between different suppliers and manufacturers that trying to make comparisons is nigh on impossible.”

Like the U.K. researchers found, my research found that U.S. portion sizes differ drastically from federal standards.

For example, while the serving size of pasta on a food label is one cup, most people eat a lot more than that. Indeed, a restaurant portion of pasta is around three cups. And, when making a peanut butter sandwich, how many people actually scoop out the two-tablespoon serving size that the food label suggests?

However, it is a complicated issue.

As I discussed in a thoughtful Q&A with Food Navigator about the portion problem with food labels of packaged foods in the U.S.:

“While unrealistically small serving sizes can make unhealthy products appear in a more favorable light, simply making serving sizes bigger to reflect what people eat is not without it’s own risks.”

As I further explained, “Current serving sizes used for food labels were based on what people reported eating decades ago and we all know that what people say they eat and what they actually eat are two different things, so it makes sense to look at them again. However, if you make the serving sizes too large to reflect what many people are likely to eat, the risk is that people will think the government is telling me I can eat more.”

As summarized in a paper I co-authored with my NYU colleague Marion Nestle, in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine “federal standards bear little relationship to typical marketplace portions.”

And complicating the problem in the U.S., the FDA sets standards for food labels and the USDA sets standards for dietary guidance and education. These standards are smaller than typical portions, differ from one another, and may be creating more confusion. As we suggest, “One uniform system is needed to better advise the public on the relationship between portion size, calories and weight gain.”

So, until the federal government (both in the U.S. and the U.K.) addresses the portion distortion issue, what is the take home message for consumers? I advise clients that I counsel that referring to the serving size information on package labels can be educational but should be looked at with a critical eye.

Here are some tips.

1. Do not assume that the serving size information listed is what you will actually eat.

Reading serving size information can be very educational, if you pay close attention to the actual size (weight or volume) listed on the label. The label will tell you, for example, that if you eat a three quarters of a cup of cereal, it will contain 100 calories. However, if you eat double that amount, you will need to recognize that you are actually eating double the calories as well. Sounds like common sense, but for many of us, it does not register that bigger portions contain more calories.

2. Pay close attention to the number of servings per container or per package.

Even if you eat an entire muffin or candy bar that appears to be marketed for one person, the information on the serving size often states that it contains multiple servings.

3. Use visuals to help you estimate your serving size.

One cup of pasta is the size of a baseball. Two tablespoons peanut butter is the size of a walnut in a shell. Three ounces of meat is the size of a deck of cards. Becoming familiar with visuals can help you eyeball standard serving sizes so that you can then compare these servings to how much you actually eat. Because most of us can visualize common objects it’s a great way to keep portions in check. It makes you think about how much food you’re piling on your plate.

Here is my visual guide to eyeballing serving sizes.

• Nuts, quarter cup = golf ball
• Salad dressing or olive oil, two tablespoons = shot glass
• Peanut butter, two tablespoons = walnut in a shell
• Ice cream, half cup =half baseball
• Cheese, two ounces = eight dice
• Pasta or rice, one cup = baseball
• Oil, one teaspoon = water-bottle cap
• Meat, fish, or poultry, three ounces = deck of cards
• Bread, one ounce slice = CD case

4. Don’t snack out of a jumbo bag.

Familiarize yourself with the serving size on the food label, pour yourself one serving, and put the bag away. Practice this for chips, nuts, pretzels and other treats

5. Don’t be fooled by health halos and health claims on package labels.

Just because a food is labeled organic, gluten free, or low-fat doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want. Calories are calories!

6. Fill up on fresh fruits and veggies.

You can’t go wrong by adding more fresh fruits and veggies that do not bear package labels to your plate. Eat an apple as a snack, add fresh berries to your yogurt, and fill half of your dinner plate with fresh vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are relatively low in calories and rich in nutrients so you can eat more without worrying too much about gaining weight.

7. Avoid your trigger foods.

If you can’t stop at one serving of chips or pretzels, then don’t even buy it. Choose a treat you can control and portion out.

8. Pay attention to how hungry you actually are and what else you are eating throughout the day.

9. Remember, you don’t need to eat the whole thing.

10. And finally, less is more!

As I often highlight in my talks, “What kind of sandwich isn’t fattening?” My answer: “half a sandwich.”

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USDA’s new food icon: from pyramid to plate!

USDA’s new food icon: from Pyramid to Plate

Big news in the nutrition world. Yesterday, the Obama administration unveiled a circular plate as its new food icon to replace the Pyramid graphic we have known for nearly 2 decades. The plate is divided into wedges to represent the different food groups—fruit, vegetables, grains, and protein. It reflects what a balanced meal is supposed to look like. Fruits and vegetables take up half the plate. The dairy group is seen on the side much like a cup.

I watched as First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, unveiled MyPlate at yesterday’s morning press conference.

The government’s website http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ provides extensive details on how to use the plate both for professionals and consumers. The new icon is designed to reflect the consumer messages from the 10th edition of the Dietary Guidelines which were released in January.

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.

.

Here’s what I think of the new icon:

Good points:

  • The plate is very simple and easy to understand. Consumers probably can relate more to a plate than a Pyramid. After all, we usually eat off of a plate, not a pyramid.
  • It is easy for kids to understand and hence, is an investment in our future. Many children that I have counseled did not relate well to the previous pyramids.
  • MyPlate has a greater emphasis on fruits and vegetables than MyPyramid. With the new food icon, half the plate consists of fruits and vegetables, with the vegetable group being the largest wedge. This is an excellent message.
  • The food groups on the plate are not overflowing which conveys the message “avoid oversized portions.” But of course, we need to make sure that our plate is not too big. Over the years, plates have gotten bigger and so have our waistlines. Take away message: In addition to the choosing the proper proportions of foods, we must watch plate size.

Pet peeves:

  • There is no food on the plate. I would have loved to see some healthy choices within each food group. I would have liked to see pictures of nutrient dense foods from each food group such as brown rice in the grain group and fish in the protein group.
  • The meat and alternatives group was renamed to protein. This is confusing: protein is a nutrient, not a food. The other 3 wedges—fruits, vegetables, and grains–are foods. The other issue is that dairy (a food group off to the side of the plate) and grains also contain ample protein in our diet. A 6 oz Greek yogurt, for example, contains more than 15 grams of protein.
Where’s the protein? Below are some examples of how much protein is in various foods from the different food groups.
Protein (grams):
PROTEIN
1 oz meat/fish/chicken: about 7g
3 oz meat/fish/chicken: about 21g
1/2 cup beans: about 7g
DAIRY
6 oz Greek yogurt 16 g
8 oz yogurt: about 11-12g
2 oz cheese: about 14g
GRAINS
1/2 cup quinoa (cooked): 4.5g

.

Nonetheless, the plate icon is a marked improvement from the 2005 Pyramid. Obesity is a huge crisis in the US and let’s hope that this new simple symbol helps to shape dinner plates around the country. Now, if we can get the restaurant industry to serve us a plate where half would be filled with fruits and vegetables that would be great progress.

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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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