“Make half your plate fruits and vegetables” is one tip to help Americans translate the government’s new dietary guidelines into their everyday lives.

Highlighting the need to cut calories and pump up physical fitness, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services released the Dietary Guidelines Jan. 31.

The guidelines recommend increased fruit and vegetable consumption, and stress eating a variety of vegetables — particularly dark green, red and orange vegetables.

Guidelines call for 'half a plate' of produce

Courtesy photo

Government officials at the unveiling of dietary guidelines Jan. 31 include Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh (from left); HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; and Deputy Director of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion Dr. Robert Post.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, according to a USDA news release, while urging a reduction in sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and refined grains.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the release said the guidelines reflect growing concern about obesity in the U.S. because more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

Produce industry advocates were pleased with their initial review of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.
“‘Make half your plates fruits and vegetables’ is a key consumer message,” Elizabeth Pivonka, president and chief executive officer of the Hockessin, Del.-based Produce for Better Health Foundation said in an e-mail.

PBH has been using the “half-a-plate” message for several years to help consumers adopt the previous set of dietary guidelines and Pivonka said the government’s recommendation adds weight to the message.

Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said United Fresh has been advocating for the “half-a-plate” message for six years.

“This is big news,” she said in an e-mail.

The latest recommendations — the 7th edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans — stress cutting back on calories and boosting physical activity the release said.

“The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are being released at a time when the majority of adults and one in three children is overweight or obese and this is a crisis that we can no longer ignore,” Vilsack in the news release.

“The bottom line is that most Americans need to trim our waistlines to reduce the risk of developing diet-related chronic disease,” he said in the release.

The guidelines include 23 recommendations for the general population and six more for specific populations, according to the news release.

The government will provide more “consumer-friendly advice and tools,” including an updated version of the Food Pyramid, in the next few months.

Consumer tips from the USDA and HHS on adopting the guidelines include:

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals — and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

More information on the guidelines is available at www.dietaryguidelines.gov.