The New American Diet: Can We Do It?
The government's new diet guidelines may be hard to swallow.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements? continued...
And as people struggle to meet their , they may be tempted to cut out nutritious foods --
particularly calcium-rich dairy foods. This may also happen when people reach
another limit -- the end of their food budgets. In both cases, inexpensive
supplements may fill the gap.
Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, director of nutrition for WebMD Health, is a
strong proponent of healthy foods. Yet she says her family takes vitamins every
"I am a big proponent of taking a daily vitamin - we call it the
insurance pill around our house," Zelman says.
Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports nutrition at the University of
Pittsburgh Medical Center and nutritional consultant to the Pittsburgh
Steelers, also agrees with Dickinson -- up to a point.
"If people really step up to their plates and are able to make changes
and increase their whole fruits
and vegetables and dairy foods, they won't need supplements," Bonci
tells WebMD. "But because everybody isn't going to be making this
transition overnight, a multiple-vitamin-and-mineral supplement is
That said, Bonci and Zelman both stress that the body needs healthy
"All those things in the guidelines, those dark greens and deep oranges
and so on -- all those phytonutrients in the food -- are not going to be in the
supplement," Bonci says. "You can take a Centrum, but you still have to
eat your spinach."
The Department of Health and Human Services, one of the agencies that
released the guidelines, did not return calls seeking comment.
Getting the Most From the Guidelines
Here's the problem: We Americans know we aren't eating healthy enough. If
the guidelines scare us, it's only because we've become used to more unhealthy
habits than most of us care to admit. Sure, the guidelines are a blueprint for
building a healthy body. But Rome wasn't built in a day.
"People truly have to think about where they are right now," Bonci
says. "People need to honestly ask themselves, 'Am I even willing even to
eat more fruits and vegetables?' For some people, the idea of red, yellow,
orange, purple, and green foods - well, if it's not a gummy bear, they are
going to say no. They just won't do it."
One way to get a handle on this is to think about how much food you're going
to eat over the course of the day. Think about what kinds of foods you'll
emphasize, and which ones you'll have less of.
"So say, 'OK, I am willing to change the look of my plate. I'm going
toward half of that being fruits or vegetables and one quarter of it protein
and one quarter starch,'" Bonci advises. "That is easier for people, to
draw a line on the plate and go from there. In and of itself that is going to
cut down calories, because the bulk of the plate is going to be foods with a
lower energy density to it, without having to go into the rigors and logistics