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New dietary guidelines for Americans, plus a recipe

Posted on Feb. 22, 2016 ( comments)
Tofu lettuce wraps

Every five years, guidelines for Americans are reviewed and rewritten by the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) recommending healthy eating patterns and regular physical activity, with the goal of achieving and maintaining good health and reduced risk of chronic disease.

Here’s an armchair view of the new dietary guidelines:

  • A variety of vegetables from all subgroups: dark green, red, orange, purple/blue, legumes (beans and peas), starchy and other
  • Fruits, especially whole fruit
  • Grains (at least half from whole grains)
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy foods and/or fortified soy beverages to include milk, yogurt, cheese
  • Healthy protein foods to include seafood, poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds and soy products
  • Healthy fats such as oils from plants such as canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean and sunflower — oils are also found naturally in nuts, seeds, olives and avocados

Healthy eating patterns should limit added sugars, sodium and saturated and trans fats:

  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories from added sugars
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats — foods high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil and meats not labeled as lean
  • Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium
  • If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation: up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men

This is the first time the dietary guidelines set an upper limit for added sugars.

Some critics of the guidelines are not in favor of adding these percentages, believing that the general population may not fully understand the meaning. For example, a 20-ounce soda has approximately 240 calories worth of sugar, which is 12 percent of a typical 2,000 calorie diet, or 16 percent of a 1,500 calorie diet.

The restriction on the percentage of calories from total fat has been removed. This reflects the revised view that emphasis should be to consume healthy fats like oils, and that we should eat a diet low in saturated fat rather than simply a low-fat diet.

The report also concludes that moderate coffee consumption (three to five 8-ounce cups a day) may be included in a healthy diet. However, it warns not to incorporate too much sugar and cream!

Remember physical activity

Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. Muscle strengthening exercises involving all major muscle groups are suggested two or more days a week. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount.

So what should I eat?

Wondering how you can put the new guidelines to use? Here’s a recipe that incorporates whole grains, soy-based protein, healthy oils and vegetables.

Tofu lettuce wraps with peanut sauce
(serves 4)

These tofu lettuce wraps are the perfect weeknight meal. They are simple to prepare and packed with plant-based protein.

Ingredients: Peanut sauce
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
4 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Ingredients: Tofu filling
1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained and crumbled
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 bunches thinly sliced green onions (about 1 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoon chopped cilantro (plus additional for garnish)
3 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos (or low-sodium soy sauce)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha
1 cup matchstick-cut carrots
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped

2 cups cooked brown rice, hot
8 Bibb, iceberg or romaine lettuce leaves
Sliced fresh lime

Spread crumbled tofu in a single layer on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 20–40 minutes, pressing down occasionally.

Prepare rice separately as directed.

To prepare sauce, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add peanut oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add shallot and sauté for two minutes. Add 1/3 cup water, peanut butter, hoisin sauce and red pepper flake; stir with whisk. Bring to a boil and cook for one minute. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice.

To prepare filling, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 2/3 cup green onions; sauté one minute. Add tofu; sauté four minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, soy sauce, ginger, sugar, Sriracha, carrots and water chestnuts; sauté two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining green onions.

To serve, spoon 1/4 cup rice into lettuce leaf and top with 1/2 cup filling. Serve with peanut sauce and garnish with cilantro and fresh lime.

Posted in: Healthy Living | Recipes

About The Author

Bev Utt, MS, MPH, RD
Bev Utt, MS, MPH, RD, is a wellness nutritionist and health educator with MultiCare's Center for Healthy Living. More stories by this author
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