Government takes a healthy interest in US eating habits

Starting next year, the US government is instituting a plan to get Americans to eat healthier.

Starting next year, the US government is instituting a plan to get Americans to eat healthier.

The new mantra, "Fruits and Vegetables - More Matters" will replace the "5 A Day" slogan.

This effort by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services ties in with the revamped food pyramid that debuted last year, advising different amounts of certain foods depending on age, sex, and physical activity levels. The new food pyramid can be found at www.mypyramid.gov.

The push comes from growing evidence that fruits and vegetables offer numerous health benefits, while also having an effect on weight control - a growing problem in the US.

Why does it matter?

"In today's complex food environment, consumers want extremely basic, usable information," notes Tina Ruggiero, MS, RD, MD of Burson-Marsteller's food and nutrition practice.

"There is so much conflicting advice being communicated that it's really hard for people to identify what has merit and what doesn't," she says, adding that removing portion size from the equation is smart, partly because there's no such thing as too much fruit and veggies and any is better than none.

To get the message out, Ruggiero suggests, the USDA ought to turn to industry partners, and corporations should not miss the chance to tie in with the program. "It's a great opportunity for corporations to do additional brand building," says Ruggiero. "It's another chance for companies to talk about the merit of their products."

Five facts:

1 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of Americans don't get the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables, and more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight.

2 Eating vegetables like broccoli and tomatoes may stave off cancer, and eating lots of greens (and yellows and reds) can help one lose weight and strengthen bones, according to an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study.

3 The new food pyramid was unveiled in April 2005 with a new symbol and the central message of "Steps to a Healthier You." The slogan suggests that Americans can take small steps in diet and exercise to improve their lifestyle.

4 The original food guide pyramid was released in 1992. The revision of the pyramid paralleled the release of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

5 The new pyramid has six colors of varying widths to represent the different food groups and the average amounts each person should eat: orange for grains, green for vegetables, red for fruit, yellow for oils, blue for milk, and purple for meat and beans.

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