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From the experts: Eat less, move more

By congressional fiat, every five years a panel of experts issue nutritional guidance to the citizens of the US. Last week, the preliminary 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report was issued - preliminary in that it is still subject to a 30-day comment period prior to a final release.

This year's report calls the American public "overweight and undernourished" and points to the alarming increase in obesity, calling it "the greatest threat to public health in this century." But the prescription to remedy the rise in obesity holds few surprises and remains remarkably consistent with prior reports: cut calories and exercise more.

The report notes that as a nation, we don't eat enough vegetables, fruits, high-fiber whole grains, low-fat milk and milk products, and seafood and our diets rely too heavily on what the report calls SoFAS - food with added sugars and solid fats - as well as refined grains and sugar. They encourage adopting patterns of eating that have been shown to be healthful, such as Mediterranean-style dietary patterns and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating patterns.

The report acknowledges that there are many barriers that make it difficult for Americans to adopt more healthful patterns and that it will take a "multi-sectoral strategy" to foster change. Here are key public policy recommendations from the report, some of which can be incorporated in company wellness programs:

  • Improve nutrition literacy and cooking skills, including safe food handling skills, and empower and motivate the population, especially families with children, to prepare and consume healthy foods at home.
  • Increase comprehensive health, nutrition, and physical education programs and curricula in US schools and preschools, including food preparation, food safety, cooking, and physical education classes and improved quality of recess.
  • For all Americans, especially those with low income, create greater financial incentives to purchase, prepare, and consume vegetables and fruit, whole grains, seafood, fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products, lean meats, and other healthy foods.
  • Improve the availability of affordable fresh produce through greater access to grocery stores, produce trucks, and farmers’ markets.
  • Increase environmentally sustainable production of vegetables, fruits, and fiber-rich whole grains.
  • Ensure household food security through measures that provide access to adequate amounts of foods that are nutritious and safe to eat.
  • Develop safe, effective, and sustainable practices to expand aquaculture and increase the availability of seafood to all segments of the population. Enhance access to publicly available, user-friendly benefit/risk information that helps consumers make informed seafood choices.
  • Encourage restaurants and the food industry to offer health-promoting foods that are low in sodium; limited in added sugars, refined grains, and solid fats; and served in smaller portions.
  • Implement the US National Physical Activity Plan, a private-public sector collaborative promoting local, state, and national programs and policies to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary activity.
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The full report can be found here in a series of PDF files, or
Cornell student Daniel Green created a single web-based document.

Wellness resources: more on DASH and Mediterranean style diets


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