Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services announced the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines are the federal government's research-based nutritional guidance to promote health, reduce risk of chronic diseases and reduce overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity.
Every five years, a panel of nationally recognized experts in nutrition and health review the previous guidelines and make recommendations for revisions. The guidelines form the basis of federal nutrition assistance programs such as school meal programs, Meals on Wheels programs for seniors and dietary advice provided by health professionals.
"The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are being released at a time when the majority of adults and one in three children are overweight or obese and this is a crisis that we can no longer ignore," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in introducing the new guidelines. "The bottom line is that most Americans need to trim our waistlines to reduce the risk of developing diet-related chronic disease. Improving our eating habits is not only good for every individual and family, but also for our country."
Poor diet and physical inactivity are the most important factors contributing to an epidemic of overweight and obesity affecting men, women, and children in all segments of our society. Even in the absence of overweight, poor diet and physical inactivity are associated with major causes of chronic disease and death.
The guidelines focus on balancing calories with physical activity and encourage Americans to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains.
Some of the main points for consumers are:
* Enjoy your food, but eat less.
* Avoid oversized portions.
* Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
* Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk.
* Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals -- and choose the foods with lower numbers.
* Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
A basic premise of the dietary guidelines is that nutrient needs should be met primarily through eating foods. In certain cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements may be useful in providing one or more nutrients that otherwise might be consumed in less than recommended amounts.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are available at www.dietaryguidelines.gov.
Locally, the Walk Kansas program which will be starting in March offers an opportunity for people to start making some healthy changes by becoming more physically active and eating more healthy foods. Teams of six individuals keep track of physical activity and fruits and vegetables eaten during the eight week program. Cost is $6 per person or $15 for a family. Participants will receive weekly newsletters during the program and encouragement from their teammates to help them make some healthy lifestyle changes.
Those who attend the kick-off event on March 12 will receive a workout band, hear a motivational speaker and be eligible for incentives. Free screenings for blood pressure, body weight and body mass index will also be available.
Registration deadline is March 2 if ordering an optional T-shirt and March 4 for all other registrations. Registration forms and information are available in the Extension office on first floor of the courthouse or at www.bourbon.ksu.edu.
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.