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    Archive for the ‘Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ Category

    2011: A Year to Remember (and Forget!)

    It wasn’t until I started compiling stories for this post that I realized just how much had taken place this year on issues of food, agriculture, and nutrition. While by no means a definitive list, I think it covers the most substantial events.

    So, if you’ve been spelunking in Antarctica for the past twelve months — or just want a short trip down memory lane — let’s review 2011, the year where:
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    “Restrict Sodium” Advice: A Boost to Big Food, Half the Puzzle for Consumers

    spamLesssodiumThis past Monday, the nutrition and public health world had its equivalent of the Oscar nominations.  After what seemed like endless waiting, dietitians, public health  experts, and food policy watchdogs tuned in — at least on the web — to the live announcement of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines (published every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services).  The post-event tweeting, blogging, dissecting, and analyzing is far from over.

    Like the Oscars, the Dietary Guidelines are a combination of well-deserved recognition (this year, my two standouts were “make half of your plate fruits and vegetables” and “drink water instead of sugary drinks”) and good old politics (as Marion Nestle points out, “eat less” recommendations are about nutrients rather than actual foods).

    One of the “hot topics” of the new Dietary Guidelines?  Sodium.  More specifically, sodium reduction.  This comes in the heels of Walmart’s announcement to reduce sodium and added sugars in their product line (these excellent articles by public health lawyer Michele Simon and BNet food industry blogger Melanie Warner echo my thoughts on that matter).

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    You Ask, I Answer: Ideal Vegetable Intake?

    veggiesI am more than familiar with the “five a day” concept of vegetables, but is there such a thing as an ideal intake of vegetables?

    For example, are there guidelines for specific types of vegetables we should be eating?

    — Maria Purken
    (Location withheld)

    There most certainly are guidelines.

    Let’s first clarify the concept of “five a day” when it comes to vegetable intake.

    At recent lectures and talks, some people have expressed confusion with the notion of “vegetable servings”.

    “Five a day” refers to eating 5 half-cup servings of vegetables every day.

    FYI: while most vegetable servings are set at a half-cup, it takes a whole cup of raw leafy green vegetables (like lettuce, spinach, and arugula) to make a serving.

    In any case, of those recommended two-and-a-half cups of vegetables a day, here is how it should ideally break down, per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

    • One half cup of dark, leafy green vegetables
    • One half cup of orange vegetables

    The remaining one-and-a-half cups can come from starchy vegetables (i.e.: potatoes, corn) or other non-starchy vegetables (i.e.: red peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, onions, etc.)

    That said, I don’t like the nutritional tunnel-vision that can happen when one only considers daily intake.

    I find it much more helpful to take a “bigger picture” approach and consider weekly consumption patterns.

    I know from experience that there are days when I eat three servings of vegetables, and others where I might get as many as eight or nine.

    In fact, the actual guidelines are expressed as weekly — rather than daily — amounts.

    Bottom line, though, you want to make sure to get orange and dark, leafy green vegetables regularly!

    Remember, too, that two-and-a-half-cups is simply a goal.  It’s perfectly okay to have three or three-and-a-half-cups in one day.

    PS: Vegetable servings aren’t as daunting as some people think.  Consider, for example, that one of these servings is equal to ten baby carrots!


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