MyPlate calls for Americans to eat more grains

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' annual Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) took place last week, new research from ConAgra Foods, Inc., one of North America's leading food makers, shows that what you add to your diet can be just as important as what you remove.

"Americans are tired of hearing about diet recommendations that focus on foods to avoid," says Kristin Reimers, PhD, RD, Nutrition Manager, ConAgra Foods. "Eating should be an enjoyable experience, which is why we are excited to present these research findings that encourage people to stop thinking about foods they shouldn't be eating and, instead, focus on foods that help to enhance a healthful lifestyle."

ConAgra Foods is presenting findings from three studies at FNCE this year.  Findings from the first study come at a good time as USDA's MyPlate Dietary Guidelines are emphasizing the intake of whole grains as a "food to increase" throughout the remainder of 2012.

Results provide a delicious solution for more than 95% of Americans that struggle to meet the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommendation to eat at least three ounces of whole grains per day. Researchers found that snacking on popcorn – a 100% whole grain snack – helped people to not only increase their overall intake of whole grains but also decrease their intake of refined grains.

Three ounces of whole grains doesn't have to be a daunting task.  In fact, eating three cups of Orville Redenbacher's SmartPop! Popcorn is delicious and equal to one-third of the daily recommendation.

In addition to the whole grain study, results from two additional studies show some foods, when added to the diet, can help to improve diet quality. Headlines from these these studies include:

Easy Solution for Healthy Living

Simply replacing a typical restaurant or cafeteria lunch with a pre-portioned, single-serve Healthy Choice® meal without any other dietary changes or additional exercise led to decreased calorie intake  and improved diet quality in 30 days.  The study participants saw their diets decrease in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. While overall calories consumed per day decreased, their intake of the dairy, fruit and vegetable food groups did not change. This study shows that eating frozen, portion-controlled meals for lunch can be a convenient and effective way to decrease daily calorie intake and improve diet quality - important measures for people trying to lose weight.

Americans' Favorite Non-Starchy Vegetable

Eating canned tomatoes provides the greatest source of antioxidants to Americans' diets – more than any other non-starchy vegetable.  People who eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables tend to have a decreased risk of cancer and heart disease. Researchers have not identified exactly what it is about fruits and vegetables that confer the health benefits, but it is known that fruits and vegetables contribute antioxidants to the diet. As Americans' favorite non-starchy vegetable, tomatoes provide an achievable option for those who want to increase their intake of antioxidants. Additionally, canned tomatoes are available year round providing a convenient and cost-effective way to increase antioxidant intake during any season.

"Years of research show restrictive diets are challenging for people to follow for long periods of time," says leading cardiologist, Dr. James Rippe, founder and director of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute, one of the world's leading research and health promotion organizations, and the research institution that conducted these studies. "It is easier for people to look at healthy eating through a positive lens by focusing on foods they can eat to improve their overall diet – more so than foods they can't eat. These studies provide easy options for people looking to improve their diet," notes Reimers. "Snacking on popcorn, substituting a portion controlled frozen meal for lunch or adding more canned tomatoes to your weekly meal routine are simple modifications that can help people to eat better."