The 2010 dietary guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) concluded that Americans consume too many calories from foods high in solid fats and added sugars, and not enough nutrient-dense of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and milk products. This nutritional imbalance, coupled with the relatively sedentary nature of American society, has led to a population-wide boom in obesity and malnutrition. In other words, too many people are eating fast food burgers and plopping down in front of the TV or computer for an evening of decidedly inactive digital entertainment.
Balance is Vital
A balanced diet and an active lifestyle are crucial for maintaining a healthy weight. A healthy body weight, in turn, improves the chances of avoiding debilitating spinal conditions, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses. The USDA recommends employing a combination of exercise and monitored intake of vitamins and minerals (such as calcium and vitamin D), protein and other nutrient-dense foods. This combination should promote a proper balance between caloric intake and energy output. While this balance differs from person to person, the standard recommendation for daily caloric intake remains between 2,000 and 3,000 calories. If you’re unsure about how many calories you should consume per day, consult your physician.
The 2010 dietary guidelines also encourage a diet with balanced selections from the various food groups. The USDA’s updated food pyramid emphasizes:
- Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products
- Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts, which are good sources of protein
- Decreasing saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars
Not only can a balanced diet help you feel more energetic, but proper nutrition also can help you maintain a healthy weight and possibly avoid a host of degenerative spinal conditions such as bulging discs, sciatica, and osteoarthritis.
More Whole Grains, Less Added Sugar
The USDA diet guidelines conclude that Americans consume far less than the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, Americans consume far more than the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for added sugars, solid fats, refined grains, sodium and saturated fat. In addition, the USDA reports that even though levels of physical activity have neither decreased nor increased significantly over the past two decades, caloric intake – especially from energy-dense carbohydrates – has increased substantially. Proper nutrition depends on striking a balance between a healthy diet and vigorous physical activity.