2011 food guidelines and the role of 4-H

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By Cathy Toole

The newly released food guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicate a major shift in the recommendations that the agency is making for Americans. An increasing percentage of the population suffers from overweight, poor diet, obesity, forms of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses. The USDA’s revised guidelines are meant to raise awareness of the inherent risks in prevalent American lifestyle choices, characterized by an over-consumption of non-nutrient-dense highly processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle.

Health is the fourth “H” in 4-H Youth Development. The Healthy Living Mission engages youth and families through access and opportunities to achieve optimal physical and social-emotional well-being. It is our mission that by 2014, 4-H — a recognized leader in providing hands-on, non-formal learning experiences — will expand participation from 2.5 million to 2.75 million youth and their families in a dynamic process of healthy living opportunities so they are physically, socially, and emotionally prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The USDA acknowledges the sweeping epidemic of overweight and obesity and says quite bluntly: Cut calories and exercise more. Eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health at every age. The USDA recommends that Americans:
• Balance calories to reduce weight. Weight can be reduced by reducing caloric intake, by increasing physical activity, or by combining both for the most favorable outcome.
• Reduce nutrient-poor foods such as refined/processed foods, trans fats foods, high sodium foods, “junk” foods, and sugary beverages.
• Eat more nutrient-rich foods and beverages. Specific USDA recommendations include: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds.
• Develop healthy eating patterns, especially in children, as research shows kids are at risk for developing chronic diseases due to poor diet and inactivity.
• Make healthy eating choices.

Children can benefit tremendously from learning accurate food, nutrition, and fitness information and learning how to use this knowledge in their daily lives. Using this information will improve overall health and fitness levels and may reduce their risks of developing life-threatening illnesses later in life. Kentucky 4-H Youth Development encourages all Kentucky youth to increase daily physical activity and to develop healthy eating habits, such as eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.

For more information on dietary policy, visit www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/PolicyDo... or contact the Henry County Cooperative Extension Service.