Ag Secretary: Federal Dietary Guidelines Changed My Life

By Nicholas Ballasy | January 31, 2011 | 3:33 PM EST

( - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack confessed today that he had “never read” the federal government's dietary guidelines until he joined the Obama Administration and since he read them it had changed his life.

“I must admit personally, I had never read the dietary guidelines until I got this job. But I read them in detail. I read all of them and I realized how significantly different my eating habits were from what constituted a healthy pattern. So personally, my life has changed by virtue of these dietary guidelines,” he told an audience at George Washington University on Monday as he and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius unveiled the newest set of federal dietary guidelines.

“My wife Kristi and I are now following the guidelines. We have our little sheet every day. We record what we eat and we are very, very concerned about calories in and calories out.”

Vilsack said the guidelines, which have been published every 5 years since 1980 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), put a “greater emphasis” on seafood.

“We want to place a greater emphasis on meal patterns that focus on fruits and vegetables and whole grains and low fat dairy and lean proteins including fish and seafood,” he said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Monday at George Washington University that the U.S. government will try subsidizing the cost of fruits and vegetables to encourage people on federal assistance to eat more of them. Vilsack spoke an event to unveil the new federal dietary guidelines for Americans. ( Starr)

“We want to move away from our over reliance in the past on sugar and sodium and saturated fat.”

HHS Secretary Sebelius said if Americans make unhealthy choices, it hurts the country’s prosperity.

“You can’t be educated if you’re sick each and every day; you’re not a good student,” she said.

“You won’t be as productive or as innovative as a working member of this society if your health condition is debilitating so this has a tremendous cost overall on America’s prosperity.”

She later added that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is helping design safer neighborhoods to increase access to healthier foods.

“When you have to walk two miles in some neighborhoods to get fresh produce at the near super market but only a block away it’s easy to get chips or other kinds of high calorie foods, that makes it very difficult to eat nutritious meals,” she said.

“When it’s not safe to play outside or send your children outside, it’s very tough for kids to get the exercise they need so again the Recovery Act is helping neighborhoods and cities invest in ways to make it easier for people to make healthier choices from serving healthier school lunches to designing more walkable neighborhoods."