The New Food Guidelines -- with Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

WebMD Live Events Transcript; Event Date: Tuesday, January 18, 2005

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic

Just in time for your New Year's resolution to eat a more healthy diet, there is a new food guide. The departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services have just published an updated "Report of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee on Dietary Guidelines for Americans." What has changed? And how can you use this new information to become a more healthy new you? Kathleen Zelman, director of nutrition for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic, joined us on Jan. 18 to answer your questions.

If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MODERATOR: Welcome to WebMD Live, Kathleen. Why new guidelines? Is there new information or scientific data that necessitated a revision of the guidelines? Or is this the result of a scheduled periodic review?

ZELMAN: It is the result of the five-year revision. While many of the guidelines are similar to the advice we've been giving these past five years, the new 2005 dietary guidelines incorporate science-based advice to promote health and to reduce risk from major chronic diseases through diet and exercise. A very well-respected group of scientists summarized the present knowledge regarding nutrients and food into recommendations for the public. It is designed to help Americans eat fewer calories, attack our obesity problem, become more active, and make wiser food choices. I trust these guidelines will also encourage food manufacturers, restaurants and food establishments to adopt healthier alternatives.

MODERATOR: Do these guidelines take into account how Americans really eat, not just how we should eat?

ZELMAN: In fact, the guidelines are more specific to quantity because of past confusion regarding serving sizes. For example, one of the key recommendations encourages us to eat more fruits and vegetables, so instead of saying nine servings per day, the guidelines specify 2 and a half cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit, which are the equivalent of nine servings. It's easier to figure out a half a cup of broccoli than it is to determine what one serving of broccoli is.

MODERATOR: What are some of the key recommendations?

ZELMAN: The positive advice is on eating more nutrient-dense foods. In addition to the fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and low-fat dairy. The basis of this advice is because you can consume and enjoy more of these nutrient-dense foods without lots of extra calories. It really should help us focus on making calories count.

Whole grain is another area where the guidelines place emphasis. The recommendation is to consume 6 one ounce servings (one ounce equals one slice of bread), half of which should be whole grain. Read the labels to be sure you see whole grain, whole oats, brown or wild rice, rye, pumpernickel, as a few examples.

Another key recommendation is to consume three servings of skim or low-fat dairy. The calcium is vital for our bones and to prevent osteoporosis. In addition, Americans love their dairy and emerging research shows that three servings of dairy in a reduced calorie eating plan enhances weight loss.

One thing we have found at the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic is that when eating plans include lots of food to eat, i.e., low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains -- and the foods are filling -- we have much greater success at weight loss. Eating more of the good stuff means you're more likely to eat less of the foods you need to limit.

MODERATOR: Are there any negative recommendations -- things we should avoid or eliminate?

ZELMAN: If one had to visualize what the new dinner plate might look like, half of it would be covered with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter whole grains, with a very small portion of poultry, lean meat, fish, beans, or nuts. Portion control on these items is being urged. So that two ounces of lean meat or four ounces of seafood might be the amount of protein you see at lunch or dinner. Americans are urged to limit the protein from these sources to five and a half ounces per day, which will come as a shock to some who sit down to 12-ounce steaks at dinner. Clearly, we need to cut back on these portion sizes and bring them into more calorie controlled portions.

The guidelines suggest limiting saturated fats that are found in whole milk, fatty cuts of meat, to less than 10 percent.

The advice for cholesterol remains the same: limit to 300 mg per day, and trans fats are to be kept as low as possible. The good news is that with the new trans fat labeling guidelines, we have already seen a shift in reducing these fats.

In addition, salt has been addressed in these guidelines, and a level of 2300 mg is what's advised. That's the equivalent of 2 cups of canned soup and a bag of potato chips.