U.S. government overhauls food pyramid, resets dietary guidelines

T Special to the Daily

The federal government released a set of guidelines to promote healthier diets and lifestyles among Americans earlier this month.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the sixth edition of the guidelines, “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.”

The guidelines, based on scientific studies concerning obesity, are reviewed every five years.

The 2005 edition features a number of new recommendations that will alter the food pyramid for the first time since 1992, said John Webster of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. He said those specific changes will be announced later this year.

“There’s an emphasis on whole grains, orange and yellow vegetables, leafy vegetables and really all fruits and vegetables in general,” Webster said.

“There’s also a greater emphasis on no- and low-fat dairy products, lean cuts of meat, and eating more nuts and legumes.”

Webster specified that these recommendations are not for people suffering from serious health conditions, such as diabetes.

“These are directed to healthy people to help them eat (more) healthy and maintain a healthy weight,” he said.

Recognized by most, followed by few

“Our intention is to make the guidelines more effective,” Webster said. “Right now, the food pyramid is widely recognized by 80 percent of the public, but only about 3 to 4 percent of the public follow it.”

Len Marquart, a University faculty member in the department of food science and nutrition, agreed that consumers need help when it comes to eating healthy.

“There’s a lot of work to be done to encourage Americans to eat appropriately,” Marquart said. “One of the roles at the University is to bridge the gap between the guidelines and what people actually eat.”

On hearing the news, some University students agreed they do not have very healthy diets.

“Since high school, my eating and exercise habits have taken a turn for the worse,” said first-year student Kyle Pendergast. “Now, I only have time to study.

“I also have to eat at weird times. I end up always eating greasy pizza, because by the time I get to the dining hall, that’s all that’s left.”

When asked about their consumption of whole grains, a central focus of the recent dietary guidelines revisions, most students said they normally eat white bread.

“I usually eat more white bread, because I eat out a lot, and there’s normally not a lot of whole-grain options,” junior Erin Fossum said.

Marquart said work is under way to help consumers understand the benefits of whole grains.

“One project going on now is to help consumers identify whole grains, (their) benefits and how to include them in their diets,” Marquart said.

“The recommended serving of whole grains is three servings per day, but most people only get one serving per day.”

– Freelance editor Steven Snyder welcomes comments at [email protected]