Why It Matters Wednesday: New USDA Guidelines

I won't lie... the Whole Foods produce section is practically a religious experience for me.

You probably grew up with the understanding that fruits and veggies were an important part of the daily feeding process, but recent reports are indicating that Americans, advised to aim for ‘five a day,’ are still not getting enough

Yesterday, the US Department of Agriculture released new dietary recommendations to Americans, this time focusing less on counting servings and focusing more on fractions. In addition to advising Americans to watch their salt intake, eat less sugar, and consume less processed, prepackaged food (particularly of the dessert variety!), they also created a visual example of how to eat enough vegetation — fill half of your plate.

So is the Food Pyramid becoming a pie graph?
NPR’s April Fulton suggests… maybe. “The pyramid is still in place for now, although they might revise that a little bit later,” she says here. “But a lot of people are speculating they may move more towards a plate.”

But the break down gets a little more specific.
Age and race considerations factor into advice given to people with hypertension, those over 51, and African Americans — no more than 1,500 milligrams of salt — because these groups are the most likely to experience health problems as a result of excessive sodium intake.

So will this make eating better easier?
We can hope. At the very least, this gives a very visual guide of how to approach our plates. But there is still quite a bit to be desired…

We all know fruits and veggies are low calorie, highly nutritious and do worlds of good for us, and as always… that the ounce of prevention will always be worth more than the pound of cure. But what about the long-run? What will it all mean in the next several years?

Well, this remains to be determined. We’re starting to see more in the news about work being done to make school lunches healthier, etc., and I’m certainly hopeful that these will have a genuinely positive impact on our society. In the mean time, though, keep these images in mind when you’re dishing up dinner or reflecting on your food journal:

- Most dinner plates are about 10″ across, meaning that to follow the USDA’s new half-plate advice, you should have veggies spanning 1o inches in length and 5 inches in width. About the size of a (slightly rounded) paperback.
– Consider giving up the salt shaker entirely… I won’t lie, this is a hard one to do… But Jessica, aka Sodium Girl, likens sodium-free living to being similar to not wearing black anymore — at first, a mind-boggling challenge, but later a lesson in creativity and exploration. Be sure to check out her blog which explores how delicious life can be without sprinkling tiny crystals all over everything.

Sound off!! Tell me what you think of the new guidelines — will they do any good? Are they helping or hindering?

More info/news on the guidelines here.

P.S. Thank you, Jeremy, for post inspiration this week! :)

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2 responses to “Why It Matters Wednesday: New USDA Guidelines

  1. Thank you for the link! I hope it helps people take health care into their own hands (and proves that healthy food can be delicious).

  2. I feel that they’re a step in the right direction. I work as a health coach and I get a lot of questions from clients about how to even begin eating more healthfully. As a result, we frequently begin working in a lot of these areas–more veggies, less sugar, less processed food, etc. So while I don’t think these guidelines are perfect, I think they’re progress. A lot of people need to start with these types of basic steps before they’re ready to take on anything more!

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