Food Fight Over Uncle Sam’s New Dietary Guidelines

A food fight is under way in Washington over what advice Uncle Sam should give Americans about eating.

Public health advocates fear the federal government will shy away from offering blunt advice about a healthy diet when it unveils its new dietary guidelines by year’s end, The Washington Post reports.

The article comes after a panel of scientists and nutritionist advising the feds singled out the Mediterranean diet as one of the best-documented examples of a healthy, plant-based diet. The Mediterranean food regimen is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and olive oil.

“The advisory committee’s emphasis on a ‘plant-based’ diet … has caused much consternation among the powerful egg and meat lobbies who say the term might be misunderstood as advocating a vegetarian diet,” the Post says. The paper also notes that plant-based is in fact “defined as a diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables but includes moderate amounts of meat, eggs and milk.”

The advisory panel — tapped by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments to overhaul the U.S. government’s dietary guidelines — recommended in June that we cut back on salt, processed meats such as bacon, and sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

The federal government is required to update its so-called Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years. The last set was issued in 2005. The new guidelines are due out at the end of this year.

The Post article says the federal government typically has avoided controversial advice.

“And with food, everything is controversial: A boost for one type of food in the guidelines can be viewed as a threat by providers of competing products,” the Post adds. “The result, critics say, is a nutritional education system so politically influenced that it is ineffective.”

Here’s a summary of the 13-member advisory panel’s recommendations:

  • Eat a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  • Eat more seafood and fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products.
  • Consume only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and eggs.
  • Lay off salt by reducing sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams a day from 2,300 mg.
  • One or two glasses of wine or other alcohol a day are fine.
  • Lower the consumption of saturated fat to 7 percent of total caloric intake from 10%.
  • Empower and motivate people, especially families with children, to prepare and consume healthy foods at home.

The dietary guidelines affect federally funded food programs such as the school lunch program and what prisoners eat. They also help shape the government’s food pyramid and the nutritional labels you see on packaged foods.

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch