In case you weren’t aware, every five years the US government dusts off their nutrition manuals and tomes of medical census information to reevaluate how terrible the American diet really is.
Well, 2015 was one of those golden years. The results are in and it looks like all of those websites devoted to making fun of obese folks and children shaped like balls have finally made it to the White House.
The report is jam-packed full of verified information about how our countrywide terrible eating habits are costing our government money and that is just unacceptable. Let’s take a look at a few highlights of the report and then go eat a big, juicy cheeseburger, shall we?
1. The government wants you to drink beer… a little.
Despite all of the internet angst concerning women drinking off birth control, the USDA allows one drink per day for women and two drinks for men. Great news, right? They also have some “grumpy wife” rules about what is considered “heavy drinking,” though.
According to the report, “high-risk drinking is the consumption of 4 or more drinks on any day or 8 or more drinks per week for women and 5 or more drinks on any day or 15 or more drinks per week for men. Binge drinking is the consumption within about 2 hours of 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men.”
We aren’t here to judge, but now you know how the government (and your judgmental mom) feel about your drinking habit.
2. You can now eat within one of three different diets.
The 2015 report was a bit groundbreaking for a few reasons—
1. It was a little disheartening.
2. It finally recognized that not everyone eats the same foods. There have been rumors floating around the USDA for a few years about those crazy folks who don’t really enjoy the idea of chewing on chunks of mammalian flesh, but until now, those looneys were never given too much consideration… until now.
The guidelines now offer a general plan for “Typical American,” “Mediterranean,” and “Vegetarian” diets. It is still pretty clear, however, that no one cares about the Vegans. Just kidding, we are all impressed.
The 2015 report focuses on a “sustainable” diet, rich in whole grains, veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds and says that we, Americans, need to watch it with the lunchmeat, prime rib, hotdogs and chicken nuggets.
Our delicious, fatty, deep-fried, overly-processed meats will be our downfall, friends. They are adamant,however, that no food group needs to be eliminated to achieve the goals of healthy and sustainable fare.
3. Drink lots of coffee!
(This message brought to you by over-priced coffee shops everywhere.)
The preliminary reports are in and it is looking a lot like adults who drink 3-5 cups of black coffee a day have lower rates of Type-2 Diabetes, Heart Disease and Naps. (We are kidding about the last one… probably.)
The guidelines still recommend a limit on caffeine for children and adolescents, as there is not enough evidence on the long term effects on that age group one way or another, but with as many eight-year-olds as we’ve seen shot-gunning Red Bulls, the evidence should be clear in the very near future.
Coffee addicts are warned to steer clear of the cream/sugar/flavored syrup trap, however. Empty calories are still empty calories if they are in a caramel gingerbread mocha frapuccino.
4. Focus on HOW you eat, instead of just WHAT you eat.
One of the greatest ideas to come out of this government-endorsed food initiative is about encouraging everyone at every stage of life to educate themselves about what they are eating.
This isn’t just about guessing the mystery meat in the cafeteria anymore, this is about knowing what the meal is made of and approximating calories as well as nutritional value. A little bit of knowledge about nutrition is a great thing and getting the word out is how great things happen.
Twenty years ago, people smoked everywhere there were ashtrays, ten years ago our baked goods smothered our arteries in delicious trans fats, and five years ago Americans thought “high fructose corn syrup” was a good alternative to sugar.
Information travels fast these days and we are desperately in need of a nutrition revolution.
5. If you’ve been trying to keep your sodium below 1,500 mg, you’re about to feel salty.
In 2010, the USDA set their guideline for Americans at risk for heat disease to below 1,500 mg. If you’ve ever read the labels on the food you eat, you will soon realize that 1,500 mg is almost unobtainably low.
A chicken breast has around 70 mg all on its own, a stalk of celery has 50 mg per stalk and that isn’t even touching on table salt, baking soda or baking powder. Sodium is everywhere and is sneaking into your body at every turn.
Good news, though! The 2015 Guidelines, backed by a 2013 study from the Institute of Medicine, doesn’t recommend dropping below a 2,300 mg threshold. According to the report, no additional benefits were seen below that limit.
The USDA does recommend limiting sodium as much as possible, with a 1000 mg reduction being ideal.
6. Watch the added sugar.
A new and interesting number for all of the health conscious among us to remember is 10%— the amount of calories that is recommended be consumed in added sugar.
For many of us, this means we are allowed 200 calories in added and refined sugars. The guideline made a point of demonstrating that there is a big difference between the naturally occurring fructose in fruit and the tablespoons of sucrose in our sodas, cakes and candy bars.
The calories from sugar in fruit are allowable on most diets, while too many empty calories from food that isn’t nutrient-dense are a big no-no.
7. The USDA is backtracking on Cholesterol.
Remember all of those morning that you’ve sat in your doctor’s office or laboratory waiting room, starving, just so you can get an accurate cholesterol result? Well, the government has recently admitted that science is no longer positive that all of that was super necessary.
In the new guidelines, the USDA recommends reducing saturated fats, but admits the full effects of cholesterol are relatively unknown. So, eat up those egg yolks while you can, folks.
The new USDA Nutrition Guidelines usually manage to catch a few people off guard, but the 2015 edition was particularly skilled at it. The entire vision of the USDA was revamped towards a focus on getting education, information and help out to people who be in need.
The guidelines were focused on a straightforward approach to amending the diet of entire families to include more of the foods they should be eating and less of the trash they eat from boredom, convenience and ignorance. The messages delivered were not positive about the current state of the average American diet, but they were hopeful.
It is up to us to change how we eat and in doing that we can change the face of America.