The familiar food pyramid on cereal boxes was junked this week with the US Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services announcing brand new nutritional guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence. Adaptable to fit different taste preferences and budgets, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans widens the menu to include different types of foods while firmly capping the amount of sugar, salt and fat we end up having every day.
Here’s the new diktat on what’s nutritionally hot and what’s not:
Colour-code fruit and vegetables
Choose a wide variety of vegetables and whole fruits to ensure you max on the combined nutritional benefits. Vegetables and fruits are high in dietary fibre and naturally low in fat, sodium and calories. Plant foods have no cholesterol. You must have different varieties each day, having 2-1/2 cups of vegetables if you are a woman and 3 if your man. Adults must have 1-1/2 to two cups of fruit a day, which is about one cup of fresh fruit, ½ cup of dried fruit or 100% fruit juice with no sugar added.
Colour-coding your vegetables and fruit can help you get a variety of nutrients. Eat more dark-green lettuces, such as romaine and red leaf lettuce, spinach, broccoli and sprouts instead of iceberg lettuce and green beans. For yellow and orange, eat more carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, lemons, oranges and grapefruit instead of corn. Choose tomatoes, red peppers and strawberries over apples for your reds, and get your whites from cauliflower instead of potatoes and mushrooms.
Grains are good
Half the grains you eat in a day must be wholegrain with the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm – that contains dietary fibre, iron, and many B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid. Go for wholewheat flour, unpolished rice, bulgar, whole cornmeal, oatmeal, barley etc, and have minimal polished rice, maida, white bread and pasta.
How much you need depends on how active you are, but by the rule of the thumb, adults should have not more than three ounces (roughly 90 gm) a day. An ounce (28 gm) is one slice of bread, one cup of ready-to-eat cereal, ½ cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal.
Dairy, but fat-free and low-fat only
Dairy products are the main source of calcium, potassium, and protein and help improve bone health, build muscle mass and prevent fractures. Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yoghurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages are recommended. For those who are lactose intolerant, calcium can be had from canned fish (sardines, salmon with bones) soybeans and other soy products (tofu made with calcium sulfate, soy yoghurt, tempeh), some other beans and leafy greens (collard and turnip greens, kale, bok choy), though the amount of calcium absorbed from these foods varies widely.
Children ages less than 3 years need two cups of dairy a day, teens need 2-1/2 cups, while adults, both men and women, must have three cups of milk or yoghurt. About 50 gm of natural cheese (paneer) or 60 grams of processed cheese is one cup is equivalent to one cup of dairy.
A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds are a must, with adults needing five to six ounces (120-150 gm) a day, with one helping being 28 gm of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, one egg, one tablespoon of peanut butter, or 15 gm of nuts or seeds. Choose lean or low-fat meat and poultry, and seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Processed meats such as ham, sausage, frankfurters, and cold cuts have added sodium, so should be had sparingly.
Avoid sugar, salt and fat
Most healthy oils are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, and low in damaging saturated fats. Oils from plant sources (vegetable and nut oils) have no cholesterol, but some, including coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil, are high in saturated fats. Solid fats high in saturated fat and cholesterol are butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil.
Added sugars should be less than 10% of daily calories, excluding natural sugars found in milk and fruits. Adults and children 14 years and older should have less than 2,300 mg of sodium (one teaspoon of salt) a day, while younger children should have less, but you need to watch out for hidden sodium added to processed foods such as pizza, pasta, sauces, bread and soups.
Follow @htlifeandstyle for more.