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5 Ways to Eat Healthy: What Big Food Doesn't Want You to Know

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Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) new Dietary Guidelines give people solid nutrition advice and highlight the shortcomings of the Obama administration's Dietary Guidelines for Americans released earlier this month, which were confusing to consumers and overly influenced by the $1 trillion-a-year food industry.

“These guidelines serve the public interest, not the vested interests,” Ken Cook, president and co-founder of EWG, said.

The government’s guidelines watered down evidence that a plant-based diet is better for health and the environment by not clearly advising Americans to eat less meat. These guidelines did not explain the serious health risks of exposure to mercury in certain fish. Nor did they urge people to cut down on soft drinks, the main source of added sugars in the American diet.

“What we eat probably has greater impact on our health and well-being than nearly any other choice we make,” Emily Cassidy, research analyst and one of the authors of EWG’s Dietary Guidelines, said. “We know that a diet that is good for people’s health is better for land and water. Because of the business interests and politics at play, the federal government did not give people the solid guidance they need about how to eat a diet that is both healthy and good for the planet. EWG’s Dietary Guidelines do just that.”

"Today, we are fortunate to have consensus on what is (and isn't) better nutrition. It's not one-size fits all but it is based in the solid advice EWG presents here," Ashley Koff, RD, of The Better Nutrition Simplified Program, said.

The five key recommendations made in EWG’s Dietary Guidelines are:

1. Eat more vegetables and fruits. Avoid pesticides when you can. The overwhelming majority of Americans don’t eat enough vegetables and fruits. EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce is an easy-to-use list of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables with the least amount of pesticide residues.

2. Eat less meat, especially red and processed meat. Red and processed meats may cause cancer and heart disease; their production is bad for the environment.

3. Skip soft drinks and sugary and salty foods. Adults should limit added sugar to 6 to 12 teaspoons a day. Children should consume even less. A single canned soft drink contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, virtually a whole day’s worth of added sugar.

4. Eat healthy and sustainable seafood that’s low in mercury. Many Americans would benefit from eating more seafood rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. EWG’s Good Seafood Guide helps shoppers find fish and seafood richest in omega-3s, lowest in mercury contamination and sustainably caught.

5. Beware of processed foods with harmful chemicals. EWG’s Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives describes some of the most worrisome additives and gives tips on how you can avoid them.

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