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USDA Releases Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010: Drink Water, Eat Less. Go Figure.

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Tue, Feb 1, 2011 at 9:09 AM

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Yesterday the USDA released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Got a pen? A keyboard? Your Twitter app? And it's not a lot of governmentalese this time (well, okay it is), but some very sensible recommendations. Eat less, drink more water rather than sugary drinks, seriously lower your salt intake, eat more fruits and vegetables. Sound really obvious? Of course it's really obvious. But how many Americans actually follow this sort of advice? Exactly.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced the 7th edition -- it's released every five years -- of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans on Monday, and the clear message of the 112-page document was for Americans to eat less. Again, obvious, but it is the first time that the guidelines have specifically told us to do this. With more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in this country overweight or obese, maybe the government thought that it was time to simplify things somewhat.

"For them to have said 'eat less' is really new. Who would have thought?" Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told The New York Times. "We should have been saying 'eat less' for a decade."

The last time the Guidelines were published, in 2005, the message was to eat more whole grains and less sugar. A milestone at the time, really, which prompted changes by food manufacturers. This time around, experts are hoping that the call for salt reduction, which some have described as drastic (guess who?), will provide the catalyst for those manufacturers to substantially lower the salt content in processed food. Which is of course where we get most of it.

But the most fundamental recommendations are pretty simple, and do not, of course, rely on what General Mills and Kraft do or don't do to their boxes of breakfast cereal and cans of soup. Drink more water. Eat less food. If that sounds a little familiar, maybe Google Michael Pollan.

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