Today’s generation of children will be the first to live a shorter life than their parents’ generation. This eye-opening forecast was predicted by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2005, and if it comes to fruition, would largely be the result of obesity-related illnesses. As obesity has reached epidemic proportions in America, the USDA’s June 15th release of the proposed Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.
Targeting the obesity crisis head-on, the USDA’s most noteworthy suggestion is that Americans return to a plant-based diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. It is also recommended we limit our intake of lean meats, poultry, and eggs. With health problems dramatically rising, suggesting that we shift back to a more plant-based lifestyle is refreshing and long overdue.
The hard truth is, the lives and happiness of our children and the future of our society are at stake. So what do we really have to lose, but our weight? It’s clear that a challenge is upon us, which to many may look ominous. In looking beyond the darkness, however, the obstacle we’re currently faced with can be viewed as the ultimate opportunity for us to achieve health and wellness. We’re in the driver’s seat, and it’s up to us which path to take. This could be a very powerful gift to give our children, allowing them to live up to their true potential.
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Now that these recommendations are upon us, it’s imperative we understand how to interpret them. A plant-based diet could be construed as your typical breakfast cereal in the morning, white pasta with a light mushroom sauce and a few pieces of grilled chicken on top for lunch, and a frozen meal for dinner. Technically, this is a plant-based diet, as plant foods make up more of the volume of the meals than animal foods. However, in order to reap the true benefits of a plant-based diet, one that is protective against disease and promotes health, the majority of the meals must come from whole foods.
A whole food is a food that retains its natural, unmodified form. These are foods that are unprocessed, or processed as little as possible prior to consumption. For example, whole grains haven’t been stripped of their nutrients or fiber like refined grains. White flour and white rice have been processed such that the fiber-rich bran layer and the nutrient-dense germ are removed from the kernel of grain, leaving the consumer with nothing but the starchy endosperm. White bread might be tasty, but it offers very little in the way of nutrition.
Instead of viewing this return to eating more plants and less animal-based foods as restrictive, we can chose to view it as opening the door to new and delicious foods, and ultimately to new experiences for ourselves and our children. This can be as simple as choosing a whole grain blueberry muffin at breakfast with 1 slice of bacon instead of 3, a white bean soup with a colorful green salad at lunch with a smaller portion of grilled chicken on the side, and an Asian vegetable stir-fry with a smaller portion of steak or shrimp, instead of the steak making up the majority of the meal, with the veggies on the side. Being open to this lifestyle will bring a sense of empowerment back to our bodies, spirits and minds. It will redirect us back to that fine balance that has been lost for many of us.
Embracing this lifestyle would allow us to retrace our steps back to the basics – back to simpler times. What does going back to the basics mean? Maybe it means simply pausing and listening to what our bodies are actually asking for in the way of nourishment. Along with an increase in physical activity, returning to a whole foods diet made up of mostly plants may be the quickest way to tackle the obesity epidemic that’s now staring us in the face.
Perhaps these revolutionary guidelines will serve as our wake-up call â€“ our call to return to our body’s inherent needs. Whose permission are you waiting for to live a long, healthy, vibrant life?
Ande Anderson, MS, RD is the Creator of Super Shrink Me, and Co Founder of AVAIYA.
Visit her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/SimplyAnde.
Visit her website here: www.SuperShrink.ME