Government Guidelines to Healthy Eating: Making Sense of Nutrition Information Put Out By The USDA
Obesity: Who’s Looking Out for the American People?
Obesity is an out of control epidemic, and the complexity of addressing the condition stretches over many branches of government. Obesity not only affects your health, but also the health care system, budgets for health care, and the overall economy. Whether you are obese or not, the obesity epidemic affects you in some way.
There are a few main agencies to keep the people informed and oversee the safety of food, beverages, and medications. Obesity has become a huge public health issue that is now being addressed by many of these same agencies of the government.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a federal agency that is responsible for monitoring trading and safety standards for the food and drug industries. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is a federal agency within the Health and Human Services Branch that investigates, diagnoses, prevents, and tries to control diseases. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a department of the federal government that administers programs that provide services to farmers. Their services include research, soil conservation, and efforts to stabilize the farming industry in the United States. These three agencies have been developing guidelines, strategies, and regulations to help combat obesity.
How We Got Here and Where to Go From Here.
Combating rising obesity rates takes cooperation and awareness on all levels. According to the CDC, obesity in children has tripled, and obesity in adults has doubled in recent decades. The main culprits behind the increasing obesity trends include but are not limited to:
- A change in environment, more sedentary lifestyle, more time watching TV, and sitting at the computer
- Increased intake of high calories foods due to affordability and taste
- Bigger portion sizes
- Increased intake of sugary beverages including soda and juices
- More eating out due to affordability and convenience
A series of small nutritional and lifestyle changes can directly affect your ability to lose weight and keep it off. Whether you are trying to maintain your weight or lose weight, follow the recommendations below. Healthy habits last a lifetime. Recommendations to combat obesity are outlined in the Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation 2010. These recommendations include:
- Limiting the amount of time spend on the TV and computer.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
- Reduce consumption of soda, juice, energy dense foods, added sugars, and solid fats.
- Become more physically active
- Breastfeed exclusively for six months
- Control portions
- Drink more water
For more information, read the Surgeon General’s Vision For A Healthy and Fit Nation 2010 report.
A Resource for You: MyPyramid.Gov
One of the most widely used government guidelines to healthy eating is the food pyramid. MyPyramid.gov was put together by the Center of Nutrition Policy and Promotion, which is a specific organization of the USDA. This organization was created in 1994 with the goals of advancing and promoting dietary guidance for all Americans and to conduct applied research and analysis in nutrition and consumer economics.
MyPyramid is primarily focused on the nutritional aspects of healthy living, but there is also information on MyPyramid.gov about physical activity requirements. Before MyPyramid.gov was launched, there was a generic pyramid available, but the information was limited. To make educating people more interactive, the government used the internet and developed some new tools for people to take back their lives. You can find specific nutrition information as well as quick and easy tips about making substitutions to make your diet healthier.
MyPyramid allows you to tailor the traditional pyramid by asking for your height, weight, sex, activity level, and age. After entering your data, you receive a personalized caloric allowance based on your information as well as serving size information and tips to eating healthier.
To try it for yourself, visit wwww.mypryamid.gov.
Recommended Servings Per Day
Another well known government guidelines to healthy eating are serving sizes. Serving sizes are one of the most misunderstood recommendations in the United States. People assume a bottle of coke is equal to one serving. In reality, if you turn that coke around and read the nutrition facts, a 20 ounce bottle of soda is actually two and one-half servings of soda.
Large companies have done a good job marketing their products and misleading the American consumers into believing that a package of something is a serving when many times it is not. Also, we have grown up around the idea that we want more for our money. We want a large portion, so we feel like we are getting a good value for our money. While value is important, large portions are not necessary. These large portions have led to over-eating and weight gain in many Americans.
So, what is a serving size, and how many servings is an average person supposed to be getting of food groups? That’s a good question, and depending on your sex and age, there is some variation.
Fruits: A serving size of fruit is one-half cup, and the recommendation is to eat one and one-half to two cups of fruit a day. So, if you ate all your fruit in half cup amounts, you would need to eat three to four one-half cup servings daily. One-half cup is about the size of a light bulb or a small fist.
Vegetables: A serving size of vegetables is one cup, and the recommendation is to eat two to three cups of veggies a day. A cup is about the size of a baseball ball.
Whole Grains: A serving size of whole grains is equal to one slice of bread or one cup of pasta. A serving of bread looks like a cassette tape, and a serving a pasta is about the size of a tennis ball. It is recommended that you eat six to eight servings of grains daily. Try to make all or most of your grain choices whole grains.
Dairy: A serving size of most dairy products is one cup, and one cup equals eight fluid ounces. People above the age of two years old should choose a low fat or fat free milk product instead of two percent or whole milk. The saturated fat in two percent and whole milk is not necessary for those two years old and older.
Lean Meats: A serving size of meat is about three ounces. A three ounce serving of meat looks like a deck of cards. The recommended amount is five to six ounces of lean meat per day, or no more than an amount that is equal to about the size of two decks of playing cards. When choosing meats, go for lean meats like ground turkey instead of ground beef, and try chicken breasts, too.
Oils: Oils should be limited to no more than five to seven teaspoons per day. This includes butters, spreads, and salad dressings. Each teaspoon is the size of a quarter.
There are so many factors that play a role in the obesity epidemic, and there is no pill or easy fix to the situation. Use the government guidelines to healthy eating to help you stay fit. Remember to have patience; lifestyle changes are made over time, not over night.
For more information visit the links below:
Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation 2010: https://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/obesityvision/obesityvision2010.pdf