Masters Core Fitness
Eating well to stay well

The American diet

Eating well to stay well

Posted on March 02, 2015 at 16:41 PM

We are a nation of burgers, sandwiches and tacos, and don’t take away desserts and sweet snacks. They rank No. 2 out of 32 food categories reviewed by the advisory committee of the 2015 dietary guidelines in a report recently released to the public for comment.

It also found that Americans consume too much sugar-sweetened and diet beverages, and eat a lot of starch found in rice, pasta, grain-based mixed dishes, chips, crackers, savory snacks and pizza. We also like to drink alcohol but not as much as all of the above.

Overall, our diet quality is poor, and we are the most obese nation among developing countries in the world. We don’t eat enough of the food groups that are good sources of nutrients, and we eat too much food that has high amounts of sodium, saturated fat and added sugars.

If we, as a nation, continue to eat foods that are contrary to a healthy eating pattern, half of the U.S. population will be obese by 2030, according to another report, Healthy Solutions to Lose Weight, published by Harvard Medical School.

Today, two in three Americans are overweight, and one in three is obese, the Harvard report said. Moreover, the advisory committee noted that high rates of obesity have persisted for decades and remain stable, despite billions of dollars spent by consumers to lose weight.

While our bad diets are a contributing factor, so is our sedentary lifestyle, which primarily includes sitting — in an office and in a car, on an airplane and in front of a screen.

Our unhealthy eating patterns and lifestyle contribute to diet-related chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, and the incidence of these conditions are high, according to the advisory committee’s report.

I would also like to point out an interesting side note from the U.S. Department of Transportation about airline travel. The transportation department predicts that boardings will increase progressively from 739 million to more than a billion during 2027.

This forecast and the prediction that half of us will be obese by 2030 suggests that more air travel will rise in tandem with an increase in hypokinetic diseases, which are diseases born out of a sedentary lifestyle and include the diet-related conditions noted by the advisory committee.

As you read this, you may be thinking, I sit too much. I don’t have time to exercise. I know I should be eating more fruits and vegetables, and I don’t eat enough seafood either. I love a good hamburger and crispy fries.

But think again. I think the most important work of the advisory committee relates to the evidence it present that links dietary patterns to health outcomes. I found them quite compelling and hope that you will find reason to heed its advice.

The committee found strong evidence that a poor quality diet is linked to cardiovascular disease and the ability to lose weight. They also identified moderate evidence that showed a relationship between diet and type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer and postmenopausal breast cancer.

It also found limited evidence that links premenopausal breast cancer, lung cancer, neural tube defects, adult depression, age-related cognitive impairment and bone health to diet.

In summary, you will not live long and be strong if you do not follow a healthy eating pattern. The committee defined three healthy eating patterns, and said they all confer health benefits, meaning that one isn’t necessarily better than the other.

They include the “healthy Mediterranean-style” and “healthy U.S.-style diets,” and “healthy vegetarian.” They all emphasize eating

  • More vegetables and fruits;
  • Whole grains over refined grains;
  • Low- and non-fat dairy, legumes, nuts and seafood; and
  • Less red and processed meat, and sugar-sweetened foods and drinks

In eating more seafood, the committee found that farm-raised seafood has as much or more special long-chain omega-3 fats per serving as wild caught. The exception: Seafood found lower on the food chain (lives near the bottom of the sea or riverbed), such as catfish and crawfish.

Just how much is enough? You can review the recommendations by downloading the report at http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/ and turning to page 125 for specific nutrient amounts. The advisory committee is set to release the final guidelines after the comment period ends on April 8th.

Drinking alcohol in moderation was also shown to be a component of a beneficial dietary pattern, as was drinking up to five cups of coffee a day. In fact, coffee consumption among “healthy” adults was shown to lower risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to the committee’s report.

So, there you have it. No need to keep buying books promoting fad diets, or unsustainable ones. Save your money and buy food rich in the nutrients that the American diet lacks: vitamin D, potassium, fiber, calcium and iron (in females). If your diet needs a major overhaul, identify one eating pattern you’d like to change, the barrier that is preventing you from changing it and one strategy that will help you overcome it.

Over time, you may find success or realize that you may benefit from a health coach to help you achieve your goals.


About the Author


Sign Up Now! Read our FREE newsletter!
In each issue get advice for leading a better, healthier lifestyle.