Government Releases New "Dietary Guidelines for Americans"

Summary: Americans just need to eat less. But hidden beneath the scientific language, the government is actually calling for a food revolution.

This morning, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius held a press conference to release the 2010 "Dietary Guidelines for Americans." The document represents the official federal advice on nutrition—which foods to eat, in what quantity, and which to avoid—and it is updated by law every 5 years. It's a pretty big deal, because its recommendations influence all government food programs, such as school meals, Meals on Wheels, regulatory decisions, and consumer tools, such as the ubiquitous food pyramid.

Overall, the biggest change in the new guidelines is the tone, which has become much more urgent and direct. For example, the 2005 guidelines were content to note that consumers should "follow a diet that does not provide excess calories," while today's version is straightforward about the fact that to be healthy most Americans just need to eat less and move more. The change in focus can even be seen in the "appropriate intake" chapter title: In 2005, the government organized its overall consumption advice under the heading "Adequate Nutrients Within Calorie Needs," while in 2010, the section is titled "Balancing Calories to Manage Weight."

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