Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Nutrition Month! Also included - Dietary Guidelines and I ♥ Beef!

That's right... March is Nutrition Month, brought to you by the American Dietetics Association. It might not be as prestigious as African American History Month or LGBT Pride Month, and it does have to share March with the likes of "Help Fight Liver Disease" Month and National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. So who knows how many people will actually hear about it. But despite sharing the limelight, the ADA has lofty ambitions, and is preparing to bring everyone better nutrition in 2011 with their theme, "Eat Right With Color".

Everyone who has anything to say about nutrition wants Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables. It's old news, really. When the USDA released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines on January 31st, no one was shocked to read that they want us to fill up on produce.

Now, I know I'm a little late to be talking about the 2010 Dietary Guidelines a month after the fact. They've already been picked over by experts and bloggers with far more insight than I - Marion Nestle is everyone's go-to girl for all things food policy related, and La Vida Locovore did a very nice job boiling down what all those experts seem to be saying. FoodNavigator.com also did a series of articles on the aftermath of the guidelines, compiled here by Marion Nestle.

Regardless. Here are my humble observations:
  1. Everyone is happy that the USDA is telling us to eat more fruits and veg (at least half your plate, they say), but in our consumerism-dominated culture, telling anyone to eat more poses no problems. It's when you say to eat less that people start getting snarky, which leads me to...
  2. In their own roundabout way, the USDA did say to eat less red meat. But they sidestepped it by couching it in euphamisms like "saturated fat" and "SOFAS", which stands for "solid fats and added sugars". This spares them the anger of the formidable meat industry, but just adds confusion for everyone else. 
  3. Most of the reactions I read are lukewarm. The guidelines get a passing grade, but definitely not A+ material. Most responses point out that the USDA did state more explicitly than ever that obesity is indeed a problem, they did say we need to decrease our salt intake, and they did say we need to increase our fruit/veg consumption. But still a failure so far as reining in the food industry is concerned, or telling us point-blank what foods to avoid.
What I found especially interesting is that mere weeks after the USDA released these new guidelines, the UK health agency released a warning to limit red and processed meat consumption to 3 ounces or less per day, after it has been linked to bowel cancer. And they actually said "red meat" and "processed meat". How quaint, using actual words to describe things. Don't they know acronyms are the way of the future? Those silly Brits.

To add insult to injury, the American Heart Association has announced a partnership with the Beef Board (a program that markets beef, controlled by the USDA of all people), where they will endorse certain cuts of lean beef as "heart healthy". As Marion Nestle (her again!) said, at least this seems to be a slightly more considered choice than their endorsement of certain sugary breakfast cereals. Slightly.

And because everyone needs a fabulous advertising campaign, the I ♥ Beef! people are mounting a full scale assault. According to the website, "Steak is well-known as a "best match" for love, passion and romance." Who knew?

Aw....the steak is even vaguely heart-shaped. It must be true. But somehow, I don't think mowing down a 16 oz. steak is the sexiest thing in the world, so forgive me if I skip out on Longhorn for my next date.


  1. March is the nutrition month. It reminds us of the importance of our health. We should always follow dietary guidelines to improve our lifestyle.

  2. Fun fact: Oklahoma is #6 on the top ten most obese states with an obesity prevalence of 30%. At the rate we're increasing we'll be #1 by 2014...YAY! Basic nutritional health initiatives are a hard sell here so, for now, the main focus is creating an overall food-culture change. Progress is slow, but at least we now have 1 and 1/2 whole foods grocery stores in the state.