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Healthy Eating Habits

For 30 years, the Dietary Guidelines has offered basically the same, sensible advice: eat fewer calories; less saturated fat, sodium, and sugar; and more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Only about 10 percent of Americans have followed that advice. The new Dietary Guidelines acknowledges that most people find healthy eating like swimming upstream, given the aggressive marketing and ubiquity of foods laden with calories, saturated fat, salt, white flour, and added sugars.

This time around, the messages are clearer than in the past. Rather than simply saying "increase fruits and vegetables," the news Guidelines recommend people fill half their plate with fruits and vegetables. Rather than just giving the vague advice to lower sugar intake, they now recommend drinking water in place of soda and other sugary drinks, which are by far the largest source of sugar in Americans' diets. Importantly, the Guidelines call for "an immediate, deliberate reduction in the sodium content of foods" and for "effective policies to limit food and beverage marketing to children."

Another major difference is that Obama administration officials have done more than just publish a pamphlet, cross their fingers, and hope that Americans eat better. They're enacting stronger policies and programs-like improving school foods, requiring menu labeling in chain restaurants, and funding communities to promote healthy eating and physical activity-and urging food companies to improve their products and practices. But without even more serious governmental efforts-such as banning artificial trans fat and limiting sodium in packaged foods-the Dietary Guidelines will not be sufficient to fend off the costly and debilitating diet-related illnesses that afflict millions of Americans.

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