We can all be healthy, promise the new U.S. diet guidelines. Or can we?
Your father's dinner plate featured a meat or fish entree. Vegetables were
side items: something starchy, and something green -- both, like the white
dinner rolls, slathered with butter. Maybe there was a salad for starters.
Almost certainly there was a dessert.
Among Bill Clinton's post-White House ventures, one of the more striking is
his campaign to reverse trends in childhood obesity. It's been remarkable for
its ambition, and for the scope of its potential benefits. But perhaps most of
all, it's been remarkable to see someone of Clinton's typically diet-oblivious
gender speak publicly about laying off the cheeseburgers.
If this is what your dinner plate looks like, the U.S. health and
agriculture departments now say, forget about it. The plate should be alive
with colorful vegetables such as purple eggplant, dark green kale, and bright
orange winter squash - all without butter. If there's any meat at all on the
plate, it will be no more than three lean ounces of beef, chicken, or
That's not all. You'll need five servings of vegetables, four servings of
fruit, three cups of low-fat dairy foods, and 6 ounces of whole
grains every single day. Cut back on salt.
Eat only healthy oils and no bad fats. Stay away from sweets and
sugar-added beverages. Drink
very little or no alcohol. Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. Or
better still, exercise for 60 to 90 minutes daily.
We all need to eat better. But this is just not a reasonable target, says
nutritionist Annette Dickinson, PhD, president of the Council for Responsible
Nutrition, a trade association of dietary
"I think there is a risk of these guidelines setting people up for
failure," Dickinson tells WebMD. "We know that people already aren't
doing what the last guidelines said. Yet these are more stringent. It is good
to have a goal to shoot for. But this is just not a real-life
Don't Let It Scare You
Arguably, few have done more to change the American diet than Mark Bittman,
author of the weekly New York Times cooking column "The
Minimalist." Bittman's best-selling 1998 How to Cook Everything
toned down the buttery rich recipes of James Beard and Julia Childs. His claim
to fame - soon to be demonstrated in a new PBS series in which famous U.S.
chefs will challenge him to make simpler versions of their signature dishes -
is that modern times call for lower-fat, simpler recipes.