The USDA has issued a 2010 “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” publication that outlines the government’s recommended eating habits for stronger, healthier living. Very few people actually read the publication, but it’s important in setting standards for institutions like schools, influences legislation in congress, and helps prioritize the food agenda in the White House. Since it sets up potential action by the government, big companies try to get a head start on future laws by enacting change immediately. The media often reports on it, disseminating it to a larger demographic and increasing awareness on whatever the USDA covers and recommends.
What sets the 2010 USDA guidelines apart from past reports is that it recommends that Americans eat less food – completely contrary to what the food industry wants its customers to do. The more we eat, the more we buy, the more money they make. This is a step in the right direction for the USDA and the American people, which could yield very positive results.
The report indicates that vegetarians are on the right track to a healthful life. They recommend cutting back on all fats, especially solid, saturated, and trans fats. They recommend:
- Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats.
- Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
All great recommendations. Notice how they’re short on specifics, though? The biggest contributor to overconsumption of these nutrients is meat. They go on to list all sorts of specific foods that you should increase – greens, whole grains, beans – but only mention meat insomuch as it should be replaced by fish on occasion. The average American eats 260 lbs of meat per year, while this report recommends that non-vegetarians eat 85 lbs. of meat per year (as part of a 2000 calorie per day diet).
All that said, the report does contain charts of recommended calorie intake for both vegetarians and vegans, signs that the dietary decisions are becoming more and more mainstream.
The chart for lacto ovo vegetarians is shown below:
Overall, this report provides further evidence – if implicitly so – that the vegetarian diet is a healthier alternative to most American’s current diet.
So, stay the course. I takes the USDA’s report 90 pages to get there, but what it’s saying is this: steer clear of meat, eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you eat dairy, eat low-fat products, or whole fat products sparingly.