More guidelines add up to less food
Page 2 of 2 -- Shoot for three daily servings of low- or nonfat dairy products. That's a cup of skim or low-fat milk or yogurt or an ounce-and-a-half of cheese labeled ''low-fat." Popular cheeses like cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan and Swiss are all high in fat and don't fit very easily.
Foods to eat less of(almost everything)
The guidelines don't name the ''less of" foods specifically, apparently as a bow to the food industry, which lobbies hard to have no particular food maligned. But there are clues.
The meaning of the admonition to ''limit the intake of . . . added sugars" becomes clear when reading a table buried deep in the long version of the guidelines. It gives the sources of almost all the added sugars in the American diet, including soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks (like Kool-Aid), ice cream, cinnamon toast and honey nut waffles.
Another table deep in the guidelines gives meaning to the recommendation to eat less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids. Among the greatest contributors of saturated fat to our diets, in descending order: cheese (ounce per ounce, some hard cheeses, have more saturated fat than well-marbled beef); beef, especially burgers; whole-milk dairy foods; oils; ice cream; frozen yogurt; cakes; cookies; doughnuts; sausage; and potato chips and corn chips.
The panel also recommends keeping trans fatty acid consumption ''as low as possible," which translates to eating less cake, cookies, crackers, pies, fries, potato chips, popcorn, and other chips. Together, these make up more than 50 percent of the trans fats in the US diet.
The guidelines call for people to consume less sodium than in a teaspoon of salt. That means limiting all processed foods, including frozen dinners, canned soups, rice and stuffing mixes, and pretty much all other convenience foods. Fully 75 percent of our sodium is added to foods by manufacturers. Only 5 to 10 percent is added during cooking or at the table, with the rest occurring naturally.
Perhaps you notice a pattern here. Cakes, cookies, chips, and ice cream -- all snack and dessert foods -- come up in more than one category. Indeed, according to a study conducted by researcher Ashima Kant at Queens College in New York a few years ago, more than 25 percent of Americans' calories come from cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, ice cream, puddings, cheesecake, sugar, candy, syrup, soda pop, sweetened uncarbonated beverages, corn chips, tortilla chips, and potato chips, along with dressings, gravies, butter, margarine, and oils.
Other items people should be eating less of -- beef and fries -- are the centerpieces of meals, but not usually meals prepared at home. And therein lies the biggest dietary shift necessary for making all the other shifts.
''It's easier to make the kinds of changes that are recommended if you shop for and cook your own food" rather than put yourself at the mercy of ''what's readily available at vending machines and fast-food places," said Alice Lichtenstein, head of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University.
''You're more likely to pack a lunch and not be dependent" on the place across the street from your office, said Lichtenstein, a member of the 2000 Dietary Guidelines Committee. You're more likely to have fruit on the counter and frozen vegetables in the freezer, and you can make the choice to keep hard-to-resist desserts and snacks out of the house, she said.
Cooking means you're in charge of your own portion sizes, too -- a good thing since, for instance, a 1-ounce serving of spaghetti comes to just a half-cup. That's only about four forkfuls.
But, Lichtenstein advises, that doesn't mean you should never eat out or bring ice cream into the house.
The guidelines ''are goals," she said. ''They're something to work toward over a lifetime. You don't automatically have to make every single change recommended to the fullest extent all at once."
Making incremental shifts you can truly adjust to, she said, is preferable to drastic changes that are too hard and therefore have little chance of sticking.
''If you currently eat no fruits or vegetables and get up to two or three servings a day, and in the process displace foods that are less nutritionally desirable, that's good."
Lawrence Lindner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.