Simla Somturk

Delicious Health LLC - Founder & Principal Coach
Ft Collins, CO

    Does this "official" nutrition advice make your hiney look fat?

    March 2, 2011

    The “official” USDA dietary guidelines, released as a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) and the Department of Health and Human Services, make a splash every five years when they are updated based on the most recent research. This past month was no exception.

    February is also Wise Consumer Health Month, established by the American Institute for Preventive Medicine to teach people how to be more involved with their health care. The new 2011 USDA dietary guidelines offer a great starting point to talk about how you can become wiser with your own food choices and become an advocate for your own health.

    Why? Because general guidelines – “official” or not – are not always the best advice for you personally.

    The 2011 USDA dietary guidelines recommend Americans consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains. They also place stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.

    All good and well so far, right?

    While I salute the idea of generally eating less and consuming more fresh foods; the health crisis in the U.S. today is about more than calories or physical activity. Our bodies each have a unique set of needs.

    Unfortunately, the guidelines continue to lack sound, clear nutrition advice in how to make healthy food choices on a daily basis. This confusion is mostly due to the USDA’s dual mission to both educate Americans about healthy eating habits and to promote the foods produced in our country. Typically the dietary guidelines are filled with mixed messages thanks to corporate food interests and lobbies for dairy, sugar, and junk food.

    I think the best example of the confusion is found in the section of the guidelines called, “Selected Messages for Consumers.” The tips focus on three main areas: balancing calories, foods to increase and foods to reduce.

    In my next four posts, I will address each of these selected messages for consumers and give you my take.

    Simla's Take # 1

    Dietary Guidelines say:
    Enjoy your food, but eat less.

    Simla says:
    I’m all for enjoying your food! Enjoy delicious meals that satisfy your body, your appetite, and your soul.

    We Americans are notorious for huge portion sizes. It's important to get your portion sizes under control and really listen to your body to stop eating when it's comfortably full. More on portion sizes in another post.

    In the meantime, be sure not to skew this advice the other way. Don’t eat too little or skip meals. Many people trying to get healthy will actually yo-yo diet from one extreme—eating too little—to the other extreme—eating too much. This up-and-down cycle is very detrimental to the body. Ultimately, extreme dieting will contribute to stressing out your body, further nutrient depletion, possible insulin resistance, and gaining back any weight you may have lost (and then some). You should aim to feel comfortably full after each meal, and don’t wait more than 3.5 – 4 hours between meals or snacks.

    Also, having too few calories OR fats will jeapardize your health and can actually cause you to gain weight.

    Many Americans pride themselves on eating non-fat or low-fat versions of foods such as cheese, yogurt, milk, and other foods which are naturally meant to have a higher fat content. This is a mistake.

    When eating a primarily balanced, real/whole-foods based diet, calories, fat intake, and other elements of a healthy diet tend to balance out easily. We must have a balanced intake of a variety of fats from high-quality sources (even saturated fats!) to balance out our hormones, assist with brain function, assist with metabolism, satiating hunger, absorbion of a wide range of nutrients, moods, and many other everyday functions in our bodies.

    So, take the "official" dietary advice with a grain of salt (pun intended!) and always focus on balance and what's right for YOUR body.

    Read Simla's other blog entries >

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