As shared in last week’s post, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released, as they are every five years. The guidelines are a roadmap to help Americans eat in a way that is conducive to long term health and vitality.
The biggest obstacle to healthy eating is that consumers don’t want to give up the foods they enjoy…and they don’t have to. The guidelines are moving away from focusing on single nutrients and specific strategies, such as counting fat grams, and moving back to a dietary approach that puts greater emphasis on overall eating patterns.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are about encouraging people to eat more of certain foods and less of others. In short, the guidelines recommend Americans eat MORE:
- Whole grains
- Low-fat or fat-free milk products
- Vegetable oils, including canola, corn, olive and peanut
- Added sugars
- Solid fats, including trans fats
- Refined grains
As mentioned last week, most of the recommendations aren’t new. Sodium intake was the big change for 2010. The new guidelines ask half the population (those over 51; African Americans; those with hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney disease) to reduce their daily intake to 1,500 mg, which is a drastic reduction from the current 2,300 mg/day recommendation, and a major overhaul from the average 3,400 mg/day that Americans are ACTUALLY consuming.
So, what does this mean for those of us who have to eat gluten free? I believe it breaks down to three important messages:
Reduce Your Reliance on Processed Foods
With such a great emphasis on sodium reduction, the greatest impact you can make on your diet is to stay away from packaged, processed foods.
I know it is just recently that the gluten free have been able to enjoy packaged, gluten free products, but this is where the problem lies. Our home table salt shaker is not the problem, as this is a small contributor to our sodium intake. Processed foods and restaurant dishes is where the majority of our sodium intake lies. In fact, to lower sodium intake, it is recommended to prepare fresh, whole foods with little to no sodium in them, and then use a sprinkling of table salt at the end of the cooking process to add flavor.
When you do have to rely on packaged foods, make sure to compare labels between like foods and choose the item with the lower sodium content.
Other sodium tips:
- Don’t use salt to cook pasta, rice and cereals. The extra cooking time needed is minimal.
- Taste food before you salt it. Perhaps a fresh herb or spice can do the trick instead?
Choose Whole Grains that are Certified Gluten Free
Whole grains are obviously the tricky part for those living gluten free, as many of the commonly-available whole grains contain gluten. The upside is that exotic grains, many of which are naturally gluten free, are a big food trend this year. Grains like amaranth, teff, a variety of different rice blends, corn grits and quinoa will become more commonplace in grocery stores and on restaurant menus.
A research study published in 2010 questioning whether naturally gluten free grains stay uncontaminated by the time they reach the consumer, with some tests showing a high amount of gluten in the grains we thought to be gluten free.
I urge you not to remove these grains from your diets. Whole grains are a major contributor of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients and our diets benefit greatly from them. Instead, choose brands with a gluten free certification label, as they have undergone rigorous growing, manufacturing and transportation practices to avoid being contaminated and have been tested to prove their gluten free status. Due to this research study, manufacturers will be more likely to take on the expense and effort of gluten free certification, as their products will be more accepted by the gluten free community.
Eat Whole Foods
This tip makes sense for the gluten free not just because whole foods are healthier, but because gluten is lurking in the non-whole food versions.
- Packaged deli meats contain non-meat fillers and often contain gluten. Choose whole proteins instead, including lean meats, poultry and fish
- Nuts and beans are a great vegetarian source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, just make sure to choose whole, raw (or dried) varieties. Stay away from nut and bean mixes loaded with flavored seasoning mixes, as this is where chemicals, preservatives, sodium and gluten lie. You can easily add your own flavoring with fresh herbs and pure spices
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are optimal, but if you like the convenience of frozen fruits and vegetables that’s okay, so long as you choose single ingredient choices without dressings, seasonings or sauces. Again, you can season to your liking after thawing. I do recommend avoiding canned fruits and vegetables, as they lose their nutrition value over time and are often packed with sweeteners and sodium
- Don’t be fooled by snack marketing. Very few packaged snacks are whole foods. Most come loaded with ingredients you can’t pronounce nor understand what they contribute. Every once in a while it is okay to have a packaged snack, but most of the time rely on fresh, whole foods. They only take a few minutes of your time to prepare and pack
I hope these recommendations help. Should you find the 2010 Dietary Guidelines or any of the above recommendations confusing, please ask your questions here. More than likely, someone else has the same question.