Responding to America's "growing problem" of obesity, the federal government this week unveiled sweeping changes in its approved dietary guidelines.
Commonly known -- like its predecessor -- as the "Food Pyramid," the new plans include 23 key recommendations for the general population and six additional ideals for specific population groups, such as women who are pregnant.
The goal is to help Americans live healthier lives which, in turn, will lower health-care costs and strengthen America's long-term social and fiscal prosperity.
To that end, the Obama Administration embarked on a new campaign this week in its "War on the American Waistline."
The Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments this week announced the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans -- the recommendations behind the popular food pyramid.
Because more than more than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese, the government is placing stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.
Sec. Tom Vilsack, USDA: "The science behind these guidelines is unquestioned. And certainly, it's important for us to send the message to American families that these guidelines are designed to provide them an opportunity for healthy eating habits and healthy lifestyles."
The new guidelines focus on balancing calories with physical activity, and encouraging Americans to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, and fat-free and low-fat dairy products.
Meanwhile, the government suggests people consume less saturated and trans fats, added sugars, refined grains and sodium…a lot less sodium. In fact, USDA recommends people who are 51 and older, African-American or suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should cut the amount of salt they eat daily to little more than half a teaspoon. This group makes up about half of the U.S. population!
For everyone else, the government continues to recommend about a teaspoon a day - 2,300 milligrams - or about one-third less than the average person usually consumes.
Officials with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents the nation's largest food companies, say sodium will be reduced in processed foods as consumers demand it.
Salt processors disagree with USDA's assessment. The Salt Institute, an association of sodium producers including Morton and Cargill, said the guidelines are "made up out of thin air" and make the government into the "food police."