Food Guidelines: New Dietary Guidelines Published (cont.)

If you have high blood pressure, the advice is to limit your sodium to 1500 mg per day or a cup and a half of canned soup. Watching your sodium intake is easy if you rely on fresh foods. Most sodium is found in processed foods, salted products, table salt, and salty meats, such as ham and bacon. If you are concerned about your sodium intake, check with your doctor or become an avid label reader to determine the amount of sodium in the foods you purchase.

The guidelines also suggested that the oils we choose should be the healthful ones, such as olive and vegetable oils, and in a 2,000 calorie diet, there should be only 6 tablespoons total coming from oil.

Limits were also placed on alcohol and sugar. These items are considered extras and discretionary calories, so if you're trying to lose weight limit the amount of sweets and alcohol.

MODERATOR: What are the most important things we should be looking for on the food label?

ZELMAN: First, look at the serving size so you know what all of the information is related to. Then calories per serving, grams of total fat, grams of saturated or trans fats, sodium, and sugars and fiber. These are governing guidelines to help you make the best choices.

Gone are the carb-phobic recommendations. Just as a reminder, fruits, vegetables and whole grains are all healthy carbohydrates and you should not shy away from them, regardless of your eating plan. Healthy eating plans should include all of these carbs.

MEMBER QUESTION: Do the new guidelines say how many calories you should have a day:

  • For adults?
  • For teens?
  • For younger children?

Our family is trying to lose weight together.

ZELMAN: It's excellent to work together as a family to lose weight, and each person's calorie level will be somewhat different. You can find additional guidance on individual recommendations for calorie levels on this website: www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines. It's a wonderful idea for the entire family to improve their nutrition and fitness. The kinds of foods that will be purchased and prepared will be good for everyone. The younger, more active members of the family will consume larger portion sizes, but the fundamental basics will remain the same and it will be easy for the entire family to lose weight together successfully.

MEMBER QUESTION: How do beans fit into the guidelines? I'm trying to cut down on meats for dietary and budget reasons and trying to replace them with dried beans. What do you think of this? It certainly is cheaper.

ZELMAN: Beans are an awesome source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber and an excellent alternative to meat, fish or poultry. The good news is because they contain fewer calories than meat, fish or poultry, you can enjoy a larger serving size. One ounce of meat, fish or poultry is equivalent to one egg, one quarter cup cooked beans, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a tablespoon of nuts or seeds, or a quarter cup of tofu.

MEMBER QUESTION: My teen daughter has declared herself a vegetarian for the New Year. How do I help her to maintain her health? Do the new guidelines work for vegetarian meal planning?

ZELMAN: Absolutely. It's easy to be healthy and get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients in a vegetarian diet. Ideally, she will consume dairy products and eggs, or what we call a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. I would suggest a daily multivitamin with minerals and simply follow the new dietary guidelines. If she wants to be a vegan, a vegetarian who eliminates all animal protein, including dairy and eggs, it becomes a little more challenging and I would suggest visiting a registered dietitian to ensure an eating plan that meets her needs for growth, development, and good health. The good news is we are already seeing small changes.

MODERATOR: You mentioned that you hoped that in response to the new guidelines, food manufacturers, restaurants and food establishments would offer healthier alternatives. Can you be more specific? What would you like to see from these groups? New labels? New food offerings?

ZELMAN: The food industry has responded to the obesity epidemic, but we're not where we need to be. We've seen products without trans fats; we've seen the latest 100-calorie packs. There are now salads and delicious chicken sandwiches on every fast food menu. The next step is for the food industry to continue to develop delicious tasting nutritious alternatives. Our responsibility is to give it a chance. Try it; you might be pleasantly surprised how good these foods really taste. Eating healthfully does not mean you have to give up good taste.

MODERATOR: But how healthy are those fast-food chicken sandwiches?

ZELMAN: Most fast-food restaurants make their nutrition information widely available, so you can see how a grilled chicken sandwich or salad compares to the jumbo burger. Sometimes using a lighter salad dressing or smaller portion of dressing or skipping the extra sauce on the sandwich will provide an even more nutritious meal.

MODERATOR: The new guidelines also address fitness as an important component of a healthy lifestyle.

ZELMAN: To maintain your body weight or lose weight, you not only have to balance calories from food and beverages, but also increase your physical activity. The new guidelines suggest that you engage in regular physical activity at least 30 minutes each day. For effective weight loss, that number increases to 60 minutes per day. It sounds like a lot of time in our very busy lives to devote to activity. But this 30 to 60 minute time frame can be composed of smaller 10-minute increments. Start slowly and work your way up to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity. Moderate intensity is like walking quickly, as if you're trying to catch a bus. You need to push yourself a little.

If you're unaccustomed to any activity, it's a good idea to check with your doctor before you get started. Within that guideline of 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity each day, stretching exercises for flexibility and strength conditioning, i.e., lifting light weights, is important for your bones. So make time and include stretching and strength training within your weekly activities.


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