Food Pyramid Reshaping: New Dietary Guidelines (cont.)
Webster tells WebMD that the Harvard study's findings are interesting, but he adds that the recommendations in the Alternative Healthy Eating Index may be too stringent for most people to actually follow.
"In my opinion, it would be great if more of us could just take a step in the right direction for eating, rather than hope we can make the kinds of giant steps the AHEI is after."
Kitty Quinn, RD, LD, a dietitian at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Mo., agrees.
The researchers came up with "important findings and great guidelines," Quinn says. "But as a country, we aren't even following the Food Guide Pyramid as it is. We still eat too much meat, dairy products and sugar."
Quinn says that if the Food Pyramid were seen as Step 1 of a better nutrition program for the country, then the AHEI recommendations would be closer to a Step 10.
"I don't think the population is anywhere close to even eating at a Step 1 level, let alone 10," she says. "In my opinion, it would be great if more of us could just take a step in the right direction for eating, rather than hope we can make the kinds of giant steps the AHEI is after."
Where To Start?
Maybe so, but if you want to take a step in the right direction ? be it big or small ? what should you do first?
According to Willet, simply avoiding excess calories - no matter what foods they come from ? and getting at least a moderate amount of exercise should be your first goal.
Second on Willet's list comes avoiding trans fatty acids, which he says are worse for your arteries than lard.
"Trans fat not only increases levels of 'bad' cholesterol in the bloodstream, but it also decreases levels of 'good' cholesterol," he tells WebMD.
And third on his priority list? Well, let's say that sometimes there is a comfortingly old-fashioned feel to Willet's advice. He says we should enjoy healthy fats, like the liquid oils found in most plants, as well as the fats in nuts, seeds and some fish - all in moderation, of course.
"People also tend to replace fat in their diets with foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates," he says. "A lot of people think that a plain bagel with jam can be a healthy thing to eat in the morning, but actually that is one of the unhealthiest duos you can eat because it has a high [blood sugar] load. You'd be better off with scrambled eggs cooked in corn oil or a whole-grain cereal."
Originally published Jan. 2, 2003.
SOURCES: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2002 * Walter Willet, MD; professor of nutrition, Harvard University School of Public Health, Boston * John Webster, spokesman, USDA * Kitty Quinn, RD, LD; dietitian, Barnes-Jewish Hospital. St. Louis, Mo.
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