As I’m sure you’re all aware, the federal government released the latest version of its Dietary Guidelines last week, neatly coinciding with all those New Year’s resolutions tied to eating a more balanced diet.
The guidelines are fairly dense, though the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has tried to make them easy to read via a consumer-friendly guide broken down into graphic-heavy chunks of content related to sugars, oils, meats, and other nutrients for three different eating patterns at different levels of caloric intake.
Updated every five years, this latest round includes a bigger focus on veggies, fruits, and whole grains, plus limits on added sugars, salt, and fat. Many health experts have been surprised that a limit on red and processed meats was not included. In announcing the new guidelines, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell explained that, “By focusing on small shifts in what we eat and drink, eating healthy becomes more manageable. The Dietary Guidelines provide science-based recommendations on food and nutrition so people can make decisions that may help keep their weight under control, and prevent chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.”
Personally, I’ve always found “small shifts” to be much more palatable than totally abstaining when it comes to making changes to my diet. I know myself too well to try to cut sugar entirely out of my diet, and I laugh when I think about the remote possibility of joining the paleo movement. I’ve given up my Diet Coke and coffee addictions for a few months at a time as a means of detoxing, but never kicked them for good. (I’m scheduled to blog about the benefits of a daily cup of joe soon, which will surely arm me with more justification for my two to three cups-a-day habit. Plus, the Dietary Guidelines say we should drink coffee.)
Small shifts for me typically include attempting to eat fewer processed foods, drinking more water, and eating out less, which helps my waistline and my pocketbook. I’m not sure how much impact the guidelines will have on the average consumer at the outset. Aside from the PR push Secretary Burwell has been on, I’m thinking the revisions will have more of a trickle-down effect in terms of influencing school cafeteria menus and giving family physicians a new set of nutritional talking points.
The big takeaways for me boil down to:
- Focusing on variety, nutrition, and portion sizes
- Limiting calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reducing sodium intake
- Shifting to healthier food and beverage choices (Yes, I know I’m a bad mom for giving my kids Hi-C!)
I hope that as 2016 gets into full swing and you feel the weight of your resolutions pulling you down that you’ll refer to the bullet points above instead of attempting to track and log calories. Making the switch to a healthier lifestyle shouldn’t be a burden, but rather a fun, science-like project that will stave off illness and leave you with more energy. Good luck making those “small shifts” in 2016!