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Help for an unhealthy public
By Jill Keith, Registered Dietitian, UTTC Nutrition and Foodservice Instructor
28 February 2011

      Too many Americans are overweight and obese. In the U.S., 34 percent of adults are obese and 32 percent are overweight. Obesity rates in children have tripled since the 1970s. Up to 18 percent of kids between 12 and 19 are considered obese. Obese children and adolescents are more likely to become obese adults.

      Obesity contributes to many health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, and some types of cancer.

      With the majority of the country's adults identified as either overweight or obese, and the numbers of children struggling with overweight and obesity rising, the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide timely recommendations to address an unhealthy public.

      Healthy nutrition and physical activity are essential components for managing weight. Poor diet and physical inactivity are also linked to major causes of illness and death.

      The new Dietary Guidelines, released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are the first to address an unhealthy public. The sobering statistics related to the health and weight of adults and children in our nation make the guidelines especially urgent for consumers as well as health professionals.

      The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend a shift in our eating habits. Key recommendations are:

      Balancing Calories to Manage Weight

  • Prevent and/or reduce overweight and obesity through improved eating and physical activity behaviors
  • Control total calorie intakeIncrease physical activity

       Foods & Nutrients to Increase

  • Whole grains (wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat noodles/tortillas, oatmeal)
  • Vegetables (aim for a variety of colors to enrich your nutrient intake)
  • Fruits (choose fresh or frozen and select 100% fruit juice instead of other beverages)
  • Low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese OR fortified soy beverages
  • Vegetable oils such as canola, corn, olive, peanut, and soybean
  • Seafood

      Foods & Food Components to Reduce

  • Added sugars (pop, candy, sweets)
  • Solid fats, including trans fats (butter, margarine, lard, convenience foods, desserts)
  • Refined grains (white bread, sugary cereals, rolls, buns)
  • Sodium (table salt, snack foods, canned foods, convenience products)

      Building Healthy Eating Patterns

  • Focus on nutrient dense foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meats)
  • Remember that beverages count (avoid high calorie/high sugar drinks like pop, energy drinks, sports drinks, coffee/cappuccino drinks, and alcohol)
  • Follow food safety principles

      Helping Americans Make Healthy Choices

  • Ensure that everyone has access to nutritious foods and physical activity
  • Facilitate individual behavior change
  • Set the stage for lifelong healthy eating, physical activity, and weight management behaviors (try to create a healthy environment at your workplace, in your home, and with your family)

      While the prospect of changing the health and eating habits of a nation can be overwhelming, remember that the first change begins with YOU! Make healthy changes for yourself and be a role model to your children so that we can improve the health of our nation.

      UTTC students and staff have many resources available to help make healthy lifestyle choices. The Nutrition & Foodservice vocation, as well as Land Grant Extension, have nutrition experts to assist with healthy diet choices and meal planning. The Strengthening Lifestyles program has activities and events that promote wellness as well as a Wellness Center to promote physical activity. Use the resources that are available to you as a benefit of being a part of the UTTC community!

Sources: American Dietetic Association. www.eatright.org; Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). www.cdc.gov; Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.  www.dietaryguidelines.gov .


March is National Nutrition Month