New USDA guidelines aim to combat obesity epidemic
by Sarah Bleau
Posted: 01.31.2011 at 11:26 PM
Updated: 02.01.2011 at 8:10 AM


ALBANY, GA -- Kids are reminded regularly as they grow up: Eat more fruits and vegetables!

There are some new guidelines the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services really want people to focus on.

The organizations released new dietary guidelines to help Americans make healthier choices and to help tackle the growing obesity problem in the county. The new guidelines recommend people do better monitoring calories, portions and start comparing sodium amounts in different foods.

According to Palmyra Outpatient Dietician Julie Davis, the everyday person can currently have a maximum of 2300 milligrams, or one teaspoon, of salt daily.

“But if you fall into the group of being an African American, you have high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, then you're automatically dropped down to 1500 mg which is almost half that amount,” says Davis.

Half of a teaspoon may seem like an easy goal initially, but consider how many items include salt.

“When you think about the salt coming from not just table salt but from anything packaged, canned, jarred, bottled, any kind of box or bag that's a processed food and you're going to find sodium in it. So it becomes very difficult to limit to 1500 mg of salt a day,” says Davis.

While officials want people to limit sodium and sugar intake, they want people to increase their seafood consumption to a minimum of eight ounces per week.

New guidelines are also asking people to combine the recommended food suggestions with an increase in physical activity.

“You can't really do one without the other,” says Pamela Jackson, Founder of the Youth Becoming Healthy after-school program.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says one in three children are overweight or obese “and this is a crisis that we can no longer ignore,” Vilsack says in a press release. The growing childhood obesity epidemic is why the new health guidelines are encouraging kids to follow them.

“We live in a supersize society with equates now to supersize children and a lot of them are having health problems associated with dietary intake,” says Jackson. “It’s going to play a major role especially as cafeterias change, restaurants change and with the new food labeling.”

Davis says the changes are important reminders that eating healthy and being active are very important parts of a healthy lifestyle. Jackson is hopeful these new guidelines will remind children that habits now will affect their future.

“If we can get our kids to make these habit changes early we'll have less incidents with childhood obesity because it's growing in epidemic proportions,” says Jackson.

You don’t have to implement all of these changes at once: dieticians say to pick one or two you really want to focus on and build up from there. Otherwise, they say it’s easy for you to get overwhelmed.

Here is a breakdown of the new dietary guidelines:
-Enjoy your food, but eat less
-Avoid oversized portions
-Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables
-Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
-Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals: Choose the foods wit the lower numbers
-Drink water instead of sugary drinks
-Exercise more
-Eat more seafood: At least 8 oz. a week
-Consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and refined grains
-Consume more healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains

According to the USDA, more "consumer-friendly advice and tools" will be released in upcoming months, including a "next generation" Food Pyramid.

What new guidelines are you planning to implement to your lifestyle?