The government's interest in food matters was apparent on a number of fronts this week. Chief among them was updated advice on how and what to eat.
Ann Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture: "The popularity of diet books and products which represent about $42 billion in annual spending in the United States shows that Americans are interested in leading healthier lives, but they want credible, consistent and coherent information to help them make the best possible choices."
The joint project of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture is the latest of the five-year reviews required by federal law.
Tommy Thompson, Secretary of HHS: "We can live by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and be healthier for it because the guidelines are a solid combination of research science and, more importantly, common sense. The Dietary Guidelines are a prescription that we can write for our ourselves, fill in for ourselves, and be happier and healthier for it."
At the press conference, Thompson noted that two in three Americans are overweight or obese. He added that the guidelines are well-timed, coming in January, since most people are making New Year's resolutions to live healthier lifestyles.
The guidelines are based on recommendations of a 13-member panel of scientists and doctors who spent nearly a year reviewing Americans' diet and health. The committee discovered people lead sedentary lives and choose their food poorly. Such habits cause many to exceed the calories they need even as they fail to get enough nutrition.
The panel pointed out controlling calories, not limiting carbohydrates as some popular diets recommend, is key to controlling weight. The guidelines suggest people choose whole grains instead of refined ones like white bread or bagels. People also should eat a lot more fruits and vegetables, recommending five to 13 servings daily. Other suggestions include exercising for at least 30 minutes daily and reducing the amount of salt eaten to only one level teaspoon each day.
The revision of the food pyramid is expected in the next couple of months.