January 17, 2005
The new dietary guidelines
have been released.
at the nation's paunch, the U.S. government
Wednesday told Americans what nutritionists have been saying for
years: Count your calories, get a lot more exercise and make every
mouthful pack a nutritional punch. Those three recommendations
are the guts of the 2005 revision of dietary guidelines that try
to steer a gluttonous nation toward healthier eating habits. The
goal is to reduce dangerously bulging waistlines and prevent heart
disease, diabetes and some cancers."
"Count your calories,
get a lot more exercise and make every mouthful pack a nutritional
"...make every mouthful
pack a nutritional punch."
A general guideline is
a variety of colors in the food on your plate will equal a variety
of nutrients your body needs. The more color the more nutrients.
This is just a guideline, and "color" refers to those
that grow naturally into the plants you will be eating. "Color"
does not mean a bowl of cereal full of marshmallows that include
Yellows 5&6, Blue 1, and Red 40.
shows that colorful vegetables and fruit contain essential vitamins,
minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals that your body needs to promote
health and help you feel great. Here are the specifics...
".. .Lycopene is found in tomatoes,
red and pink grapefruit, watermelon, papaya and guava. Diets
rich in lycopene are being studied for their ability to fight
heart disease and some cancers.
"... green vegetables ... are
rich in the phytochemicals that keep you healthy. For example,
the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin that are found in spinach,
collards, kale and broccoli have antioxidant properties and
are being studied for their ability to protect your eyes by
keeping your retina strong.
"... Orange vegetables and
fruits like sweet potatoes, mangos, carrots, and apricots, contain
beta-carotene. This carotenoid is a natural antioxidant that
is being studied for its role in enhancing the immune system.
"... Bright yellows have many
of the same perks as the orange groups: high in essential vitamins
"... Blues and purples not
only add beautiful shades of tranquility and richness to your
plate, they add health-enhancing flavonoids, phytochemicals,
"...Vegetables from the onion
family, which include garlic, chives, scallions, leeks, and
any variety of onion, contain the phytochemical allicin. Research
is being conducted on Allicin to learn how it may help lower
cholesterol and blood pressure and increase the body's ability
to fight infections."
Colorful meals make nutritious
meals, but how about colorful snacks?
"The vending machine
industry, taking heavy criticism as kids and other Americans get
fatter, is launching an anti-obesity marketing campaign to improve
its image and fend off efforts to remove machines from schools.
... [S]oftware evaluates the nutrition content of food based on
calories, fat, sugar, protein, fiber, calcium, iron and vitamins
A and C. A snack is assigned a point value, which is translated
into a color. Green is 'best choice,' yellow 'choose occasionally'
and red 'choose rarely.' For example, a 1.25-ounce package of
cinnamon-flavored Teddy Grahams is a 'green' snack, while a package
of Grandmas Chocolate Chip Big Cookies is a 'red' snack.
Critics of the food industry say marketing to children is a major
cause of obesity."
The vending machine industry
is fighting to stay in schools. If food is color coded, then it
will be easier for children (and adults) to make educated choices
about what they are getting. With this in mind, one may think
that "Teddy Grahams" is the "best choice"
for a snack. While I have no doubt that it may be one of the better
choices offered in the vending machine, it is still not the best
choice. There are bright orange baby carrots that can be snacked
quite easily. A bag of blueberries? A container of cantaloupe?
Or, there is always the original red, yellow, or green snack choice:
"New research suggests
we can all breathe easier -- literally -- by eating an apple a
day. Researchers at the University of Nottingham in the United
Kingdom report that persons eating more than five apples a week
-- the proverbial 'apple a day' -- had better lung function and
lower risk of respiratory disease such as asthma than non-apple
As for adding healthy
fruits and vegetables as snacks and key elements of meals:
"Remember that any
amount is better than none, and always be on the lookout for ways
to include more. Focus on lots of different vegetables and fruit,
not the amounts."
So, in order to get --
and stay -- healthy, it all comes down to: "...make every
mouthful pack a nutritional punch?" What about "Count
your calories, get a lot more exercise..."?
For more information
about "Count your calories," please visit our Question
of the Week (archived from August of 2003) that addresses the
topic of Serving Size.
The Questions for that
"When was the last time you checked the serving size on your
favorite snack food? How many servings do you usually consume
in one sitting? Do the math. What does it mean? How can an awareness
of serving size help you to continue to enjoy the food you like
with balance and moderation?"
And next week, the Question
of the Week will: "...get a lot more exercise..."
For now, one final quote
about the new 2005 revision of dietary guidelines.
"... 'The real problem
is that they totally focus on personal responsibility and don't
say anything about how you change the environment to make it easier
to do this -- there's nothing on food marketing, TV ads, or after-school
activities and safe places for kids to play,' Nestle added."
Vending machine companies
are keeping the red choices in the machines -- but it looks like
they may be labeling them to assist you with your choices. The
new guidelines are to the point. Eat the right amount, get lots
of exercise, and make sure the calories you do choose are packed
with the nutrients you body needs. With that said, it is up to
people to make choices for themselves.
Questions of the Week:
Why do you think some people are -- while others are not -- willing
to take personal responsibility for their own health? Do you think
the tools are enough, or do you think tighter regulations need
to be in place so that people have less opportunities to make
unhealthy choices -- and more opportunities to make healthy ones?
How do ads and availability influence the foods (snacks and/or
meals) bought by you, your peers, and your family? How can you
be responsible for making sure that the calories you do consume
are filled with the nutrients your body needs? What are some quick
and easy ways to replace some of the unhealthy foods in your diet
with nutritious ones?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum