Jan. 12, 2005 -- You can be healthier and happier. That's a promise from
outgoing U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.
Thompson's promise is based on new diet guidelines announced today by HHS
and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The guidelines stress eating healthy
fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products;
limiting saturated fats, sugar, alcohol, and salt; and getting plenty of
Editor's Note: Food Pyramid Replaced
In June 2011, the USDA replaced the food pyramid with a new plate icon.
"The guidelines are a combination of good science and common sense,"
Thompson said today in a news conference. "They are a prescription we can
write for ourselves, fill for ourselves, and be healthier and happier for it.
Our best medicines are no farther away than the shelves of the grocery and the
sidewalks outside our doors."
What's new about the guidelines? The number of recommended servings of
fruits and vegetables is up to nine servings from five. Warnings to eat less
salt -- most of which comes from processed foods -- and warnings against trans
fat, also called hydrogenated fat, such as shortening and margarine, are
stronger than ever before. There's more emphasis on whole grains, and we're
told that there's very little room in our diets for extra sugars -- for most of
us, less sugar than in a single soft drink. And low-fat dairy has been
increased from two to three servings per day, to three servings per day.
Gone also, at least for now, is the familiar food pyramid. The USDA is
debating whether to toss out the old pyramid design, USDA Secretary Ann Veneman
said in today's news conference. But she notes that the guidelines still will
look very familiar.
"Today we announced dietary guidelines that have additional science
incorporated into them," she said. "But the guidelines aren't
significantly different from past guidelines, in terms of recommending a diet
rich in fruits and vegetables, dairy, and whole grains."
So will Americans change their overweight ways? Ironically, our
preoccupation with fad diets may be a hopeful sign.
"All these diet books have become best-sellers," Veneman said.
"People are reaching out for information. We have had the food pyramid, we
have had all these guidelines, yet still we see obesity. But I believe people
are looking more and more at what it takes to lead a healthy
What Americans want most of all, Thompson acknowledges, is a pill that will
make their fat disappear.
"Every American is looking for the National Institutes of Health to come
up with that pill. It is not going to happen," Thompson said. "Do you
want to look better? Yes. Do you want to feel better? Yes. So you lower your
fats, your carbs; you eat more fruits and vegetables, and you exercise. That is
not too hard."
The time to start? Right now.
"Tonight, everybody just eat half your dessert and then walk around the
block," Thomson said. "If you watch TV, get down and do 10 pushups.
Later, you'll find you can do 20. It is not the pill. There is not going to be
a pill. There is a lot of information in these guidelines, but it comes down to
eat your fruits and vegetables, lower your calorie intake, and