When Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson held a
press conference to announce new nutritional guidelines Jan. 12, he
made a few remarks that viewers found surprising.
You know it’s really common sense,
Thompson said when announcing Dietary Guidelines for Americans
2005, a report that is revised every five years by the federal
government to reflect the most current dietary knowledge.
When Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson held a press conference to announce new nutritional guidelines Jan. 12, he made a few remarks that viewers found surprising.
“You know it’s really common sense,” Thompson said when announcing Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, a report that is revised every five years by the federal government to reflect the most current dietary knowledge. “You lower your calorie intake. You lower your fat, your carbs. You eat more fruits and vegetables, more whole grain, and you exercise. It’s as simple as it can be. It is not hard.”
It all seems straightforward and sensible, but how many Americans are able to hold themselves to the straight and narrow when every grocery store display, every restaurant seems to have a never-ending supply of sweets to advertise?
“I take a little bit of issue with secretary Thompson’s remarks,” said Lillian Castillo, a public health nutritionist with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. “I hold him in high esteem of course, but he says that weight loss is pretty common sense. That’s true, but it doesn’t take into account the fact that we’re bombarded with marketing and manipulation toward foods that are not in that plan.”
As a working mom, Castillo knows what struggle is involved in making sure that everybody gets dinner, let alone the proper exercise and perfect diet for optimal health.
Castillo says she has recently put on weight, too, but she does her best to keep up with an exercise routine and works to shop for healthy alternatives to the sugary cereals she sees at kid’s eye view.
“I take string cheese with me,” said Castillo. “And, gosh! You can go into Costco now and pick up fresh fruit that’s already cut up! They had these wonderful mangos a few days ago that were already cut up in a shoestring shape. It’s so easy to toss a few of those in a bag and eat them like fries.”
And while new guidelines for exercise – 60 to 90 minutes a day to maintain or lose weight instead of the old 30 minutes – seem daunting at first, they’re doable, said Castillo.
Exercise is cumulative throughout the day, so if you take a 15 minute walk in the morning, one at lunch and one in the evening, you’re still contributing toward total minutes, she added.
The report, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, advises that salt intake be capped at one level teaspoon per day, trans fats should be avoided, and saturated fats should make up no more than 10 percent of total calories.
It also gives more clear-cut guidelines for food choices, advising those on a 2,000-calorie diet to eat at least 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables per day rather than the old two to four servings of each.
“The terms were pretty vague before,” said Lynn Kjelson, a nutritionist at Hazel Hawkins Hospital in Hollister. “I like that now they’re more specific, like they specified what healthy grains are – whole grains – and they’re really enforcing that it’s total calories, not cutting out sections of the pyramid, which is what some of these popular diets are doing.”
While the guidelines may have jumped, both Kjelson and Castillo recommend adopting changes gradually, whether it’s throwing the kids in their strollers or onto their bikes and going for a 15 minute walk or ride after work or adding a few healthy sides to their sandwich at lunch.
“Especially if you have a child who’s overweight, the whole family has to get in,” said Castillo. “We’re not talking about everybody being skinny-minis. Everybody has their own body shape and ideal weight, but we want them to be healthy.
“As the parent you really have the opportunity to set the example.
Make that conscious effort to eat smaller portions, to eat more fruits and vegetables because, in the end, your child will imitate you.”
Approach the new guidelines as a lifestyle, overall recommendations that can occasionally be broken for a weekly or monthly splurge on something special, and your new “diet” may just lead to a lifetime of not needing that four letter word.
Childhood obesity, an ever-growing issue in today’s America, can lead to diabetes, heart issues and a variety of other maladies, so why not nip it in the bud now?
The National Institutes of Health recommend children receive at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, but a child (or adult) seeking to loose weight may need to play a bit longer. For those with recent weight loss, maintaining their weight requires 90 minutes of physical activity per day.
“Those little fat cells want to come back,” said Lillian Castillo, a public health nutritionist for Santa Clara County.
Try getting together with other moms and dads in the neighborhood, alternating nights when you can watch youngsters while encouraging them to get outside and play heart-healthy games like tag for at least a half hour each afternoon or evening.
Know what they’re watching on Saturday morning, too, as many advertisers target children during this valuable time period.
Parents can use the commercials about unhealthy food and sugary drinks as a springboard for speaking about healthy diet choices, said Castillo.
Cooking at home can also take a big bite out of calories.
“People often say things like, ‘Well, they eat eclairs in France and don’t put on weight,'” said Castillo. “The difference there is that those eclairs are fresh. Look at the label in the grocery store. Most of the time the things you’re buying are fillers, preservatives and processed foods like high fructose corn syrup. On average, anything processed is going to contain more calories than a fresh item.”