Put that New York Times best-seller currently waiting atop your nightstand aside, because the U.S. government's got some riveting new reading for you: a brand-new set of dietary guidelines, which are only issued once every five years.
As Vox explains, "The guidelines are used by doctors and nutritionists to give diet advice, by schools to plan lunches, and by manufacturers to calculate nutrition information on food packages." But thanks to food lobbyists, what should be a clear-cut guide instructing Americans on how to eat properly actually reads more like a blind gossip item, full of vague terminology and jargon.
For example, guideline number four literally says, "Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices." Surely every man, woman, and child in America already accepts that they should be eating "healthier" — shouldn't the purpose of government-issued nutritional guidelines be to tell us how exactly to accomplish that?
Alas, you won't find a single mention of "fast food" in the new dietary guide. And instead of advising Americans to drink less soda, the guidelines simply say we should "consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars" — time to get those calculators out. (Believe it or not, it's actually the first time ever that the dietary guidelines have advised people to consume less added sugars.)
Eating less red meat for health reasons is practically common sense these ideas, but don't expect to hear that advice from the new dietary guidelines: "As expected, due to strong lobbying by the meat industry and the resulting strong pressure that Congress put into the developers of the 2015 DGAs, the recommendation to reduce consumption of red and processed meats was not included," Rafael Perez-Escamilla, an epidemiologist at Yale University and a member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committtee tells the Verge.
In fact, this middling sentence is about as explicit as the guidelines get when it comes to advising the populace what foods to stay away from: "Lower intakes of meats, including processed meats; processed poultry; sugar-sweetened foods, particularly beverages; and refined grains have often been identified as characteristics of healthy eating patterns."
For a look at a country that's doing dietary guidelines right, Vox points to Norway: There, the government-issued recommendations contain simple-to-understand tenets like "Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and berries," and "Hold back on the sweets, pastries, ice creams and other products containing lots of sugar." Brazil is another country that gives excellent nutritional advice, such as this helpful 'golden rule': "Always prefer natural or minimally processed foods and freshly made dishes and meals to ultra-processed foods."
In a nation where one-third of adults and approximately 17 percent of kids and adolescents are obese, it's grossly irresponsible to forego giving clear-cut advice on how to be healthy in favor of placating Big Soda and Big Ag. The government's got five years until the next set of dietary guidelines are set to be issued, at which point the obesity epidemic will have no doubt reached new heights; here's to more concern for Americans' health and less bending over backwards for lobbyists in 2021.
Meanwhile, if you want some actually helpful dietary advice, consider looking to football demigod Tom Brady and his freakishly attractive supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen rather than your government: According to a Boston magazine interview with their personal chef, the couple and their children won't touch white flour or white sugar, and only eat organic produce and grass-fed beef. Actually, maybe don't listen to Tom Brady — he won't eat tomatoes or mushrooms (they cause inflammation, don't you know) and doesn't even consume fruit.