As people continue to put on more weight and die of preventable diseases, the debate over the role nutrition plays in the drama between science and commerce continues. Recently , the federal government released its 2015 dietary guidelines, a generally sensible plan for maintaining good health despite some revisions that drew the scorn of critics.
In February, the Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee issued a report which recommended that people favor fruits and vegetables over meals containing animal products. It said that a diet of more plant foods would also be more sustainable, reducing the impact on the environment of meat production.
By the time the final guidelines were issued, the committee’s sustainability provision had not survived bureaucratic tinkering, nor did its recommendation to cut back on eating red and processed meats. The reason was that the meat and dairy industries lobbied officials at the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services who were tasked with writing the final guidelines.
The guidelines are still sensible and encourage Americans to eat a variety of vegetables and fruits; grains, at least half of which are whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese; and a mix of protein-rich foods such as seafood, lean meats, eggs and nuts. They also recommend limits on consumption of sugar, sodium and saturated fats.
Americans who want to get healthy or stay that way would do well to follow the guidelines. Those who want to go further – and adopt a diet that is meatless or more considerate of the planet – are free to go there.