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National Restaurant Association - 2010 Dietary Guidelines provide challenges, opportunities for restaurants

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2010 Dietary Guidelines provide challenges, opportunities for restaurants

Commentary from Joy Dubost, Ph.D., R.D., director, nutrition and healthy living, National Restaurant Association

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services last month announced the long-awaited 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The nutrition guidance aims to improve Americans' diets and increase their physical activity to promote general health, reduce chronic disease and reduce the number of Americans who are obese or overweight. The federal government updates the guidelines every five years to keep pace with the latest science.


The 2010 guidelines are based on two overarching concepts: Maintaining calorie balance over time to achieve and sustain a healthy weight, and focusing on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages.

The guidance comes at a time when the majority of adults and one in three children in the United States are overweight or obese, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack noted. That's why the guidelines increase the emphasis on calorie, or energy, balance -- i.e., balancing calories consumed versus calories burned through activity.

The guidelines also encourage Americans to include more plant-based options in their total dietary pattern, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds. The guidelines encourage increased intake of seafood and fat-free and low-fat dairy products and only moderate consumption of lean meats, poultry and eggs. The guidelines also recommend that Americans significantly reduce their intake of foods containing added sugars, solid fats (saturated fat), refined grains and sodium.

The guidelines provide both challenges and opportunities for restaurant chefs and operators to modify menu items to meet the new recommendations. For example, the guidelines recommend that healthy populations consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. This could be a challenge, since on average Americans now consume about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. Many restaurants have made noteworthy reductions in sodium in menu items in recent years. The challenge remains to continue to lower sodium content to meet the new guidelines without compromising flavor, texture and food safety. Collaborations between chefs, dietitians, food scientists and suppliers must continue.

It's also important that consumers understand the Dietary Guidelines. The National Restaurant Association is a member of the Dietary Guidelines Alliance. The Alliance is a partnership among leading health organizations, the government and food commodity organizations to find ways to give consumers concrete, practical advice on how to apply the Dietary Guidelines to their lives. The Alliance's consumer research will help health professionals and others provide positive and simple messages to encourage Americans to achieve healthy, active lifestyles consistent with the DGA. The Association was especially pleased that the DGA included consumer-friendly healthful tips for Americans to use when dining out.

Overall, the DGA did an excellent job of focusing on a primary issue: reducing overweight and obesity rates in the United States. The restaurant and foodservice industry can assist Americans in meeting these guidelines by continuing to increase the offerings of foods that are recommended, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and reduce calories from added sugars and saturated fats, while also lowering sodium content. A copy of the guidelines and other materials are available at www.dietaryguidelines.gov.

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