New Dietary Advice From Government: Just Eat Less

The New York Times
January 31, 2011

The latest nutrition guidelines released Monday by the federal government reiterate much of the advice from previous years: eat less salt and saturated fats, eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

But there is a startling difference. This time, the government suggests that Americans also just eat less.

More specifically, the guidelines urge Americans to drink water instead of sugary drinks like soda, and it suggests that they avoid fatty foods like pizza, desserts and cheese (albeit deep in the report).

While all of that may seem obvious, given the nation’s obesity problem, it is nonetheless considered major progress for federal regulators who have long skirted the issue, wary of the powerful food lobby.

“They are blunter here than they’ve ever been before, and they deserve credit for that,” said Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University and a critic of government nutrition guidance. “They said, ‘Eat less!’ I think that’s great, and to avoid oversized portions. That’s the two best things you should do.”

Margo Wootan, the director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said previous guidelines — which are revised every five years — offered “big vague messages” about reducing cholesterol, salt and sugar. The guidelines released Monday, she said, were “much more understandable and actionable.”

As an example, she noted that the guidelines suggested that half of a plate should be covered in fruits and vegetables. More…