The Dietary Guidelines are coming!

Yes, the Dietary Guidelines are coming!

I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself all weekend because those meanies at the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services are waiting till Monday to release them.

As to what they will contain: I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the guidelines will tell us to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, possibly in a rainbow of colors.

I will further wager that they will recommend we choose whole grains, that they will urge us try to get our sodium intake down and to eat fewer added sugars.


They may even possibly suggest that we limit our intake of saturated fats, and especially limit our intake of trans fats.

With a tweak here and there, this is pretty much what the guidelines always say, though some nutritionists, such as New York University professor Marion Nestle, have noted that they have a way of saying these things that doesn’t exactly imply any specific food product is bad. (Cynics of the world suggest that this might have to do with the fact that the USDA has a joint mission, part of which is promoting U.S. agriculture, and energetic lobbying efforts from the food industry.)

The report is a hair late coming, given that these are the 2010 dietary guidelines and it’s already 2011. But even without crystal-balling, we have a good idea what’s coming because the 2010 dietary guidelines advisory committee, a selection of learned nutrition scientists, presented its draft to the government back in June.

Perhaps its most notable recommendation was reduction of daily sodium limit from 2,300 mg a day for the general population in 2005 to 1,500 mg. The current U.S. average is 3,400 mg.

Putting these recommendations together is a huge job, as I got to witness through attending several advisory committee sessions right before the 2005 guidelines were released. I’ll never forget it. Interminable discussions of fish; ruminations on the effects of dietary fiber on stool consistency; standoffs on the data concerning added sugar — and on and on and on.

It may seem like a silly kind of exercise – all that poring over documents and science when at the end of the day the vast majority of Americans ignore the advice and go off to eat whatever the heck they want. But the food industry certainly cares: They pepper the committee with comments and attend the hearings in droves.