The New American Diet: Can We Do It?
The government's new diet guidelines may be hard to swallow.
The Guidelines Go Shopping
Dickinson points out that the guidelines are based on long-term studies that
compared people who ate the most vegetables and fruits to those who ate the
least. But, she says, the guidelines go far beyond what even the most voracious
vegetable eaters ate in these studies.
"I do think this is more extreme -- more extreme than we really have
evidence for," Dickinson says. "If we say that people who eat more
vegetables and grains and fruits are more healthy, that is true. But even those
people aren't eating these quantities.
Dickinson has come up with a weekly shopping list based on the guidelines.
It feeds just one person, so multiply it by the number of average-size people
in your family:
- 14 cups per week of fruit without added sugars or fats: oranges, orange
juice, apples, apple juice, bananas, grapes, melons, berries, raisins
- 3 cups per week of dark green vegetables: broccoli, spinach, romaine,
collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens
- 2 cups per week of orange vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, winter
- 3 cups per week of legumes: pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas,
- 3 cups per week of starchy vegetables: white potatoes, corn, green
- 6.5 cups per week of other vegetables: tomatoes, tomato juice, lettuce,
green beans, onions
- 21 servings (ounces) per week of whole grains: whole wheat and rye breads,
whole-grain cereals and crackers, oatmeal, brown rice
- 21 servings (ounces) per week of other grains: white breads, enriched-grain
cereals and crackers, enriched pasta, white rice
- 38.5 ounces per week of lean meat or beans: meat, poultry, fish, dry beans
and peas, eggs, nuts, seeds. Count beans and peas either in this group or with
legumes in the vegetables group.
- 21 cups per week of milk: Food pattern is based on skim milk. Fat or
added sugar in other dairy products will count against
- 154 grams (5.5 ounces) per week of oils: vegetable oils and soft vegetable
oil spreads that are free of
- 1,456 discretionary calories per week (208 calories per day). "Do all
this, and here is your treat: 208 calories a day of 'discretionary
calories,'" Dickinson says. "That is not just candy and stuff. It is
any of the fats or sugars that are added to any of these foods. And it includes
any you may consume."
It's not an easy shopping list. And it's not cheap - either in dollars or in
calories, Dickinson points out.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements?
As head of a group that lobbies for supplement makers -- and as a
nutritionist -- Dickinson is disappointed that the guidelines don't endorse
vitamin/mineral supplements, even though they do endorse
"From surveys that have been done over decades, we know that hardly
anybody gets all the nutrients they need from diet alone," she says.
"It is eminently reasonable to recommend that most people get a
multivitamin a day. There is only so much juggling of the diet you can