The Latest Dietary Guidelines
The latest dietary guidelines are focused on the obesity crisis in America. Get the latest information here.
The dietary guidelines created by the USDA and the US Department of Health and Human Services are reviewed and updated every 5 years. Though much has remained the same from previous years, the 2010 update has more emphasis on the obesity crisis in America. There is greater focus on encouraging Americans to embrace an eating pattern that includes nutrient-rich foods with the goal of achieving or maintaining a healthy weight.
The guidelines stress that healthy eating patterns and regular physical activity are essential for:
- normal growth and development
- reducing the risk of chronic disease
Childhood obesity is also highlighted, and guidelines are meant to address all persons over 2 years of age. Experts believe that targeting children is the single most powerful public health approach to reversing obesity in America over the long term.
Here is a brief summary of some of the key recommendations:
Eat a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. In addition, increase the intake of seafood and low-fat milk products. Generally, these are foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. Specifically:
- Increase intake of fruits and vegetables. Eating at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables and fruits per day is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and may be protective against certain types of cancer. At meals, try filling half your plate with a colorful variety of fruits and/or vegetables.
- Eat at least half of all grains as whole grains. Replace refined grains, such as white bread and white rice, with whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread and brown rice. Aim for a minimum of 3 servings of whole grains per day.
- Eat only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and eggs, and increase seafood. Seafood, specifically types that are high in omega-3 fats, has been shown to help protect against heart disease. Look to include salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, Pacific oysters, trout, and Atlantic and Pacific mackerel.
Significantly reduce intake of foods containing added sugars and solid fats, called “SoFAS”. These foods contribute excess calories and few, if any, nutrients.
- The major sources of SoFAS for Americans are cakes, cookies, and other desserts. These are often made with butter, margarine, or shortening, not to mention lots of sugar. Other culprits include pizza, cheese, processed and fatty meats – such as sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs – and ice cream.
- When cooking, replace solid fats such as butter, beef fat, chicken fat, lard, stick margarine, and shortening with olive, canola or peanut oils.
Eliminate trans-fatty acids. Sources of trans–fatty acids include hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that are used to make shortening, and commercially prepared baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, and margarine.
Reduce sodium intake. The guidelines hit hard on sodium. American’s average daily salt intake is about 3,400 mg sodium. The new guidelines call for a reduction to under 2,300 mg of sodium daily, the amount in 1 tsp of salt.
- In addition, everyone 51 and older is recommended to further reduce sodium intake to 1,500 mg daily, which is 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt. This lower recommendation now also applies to blacks of any age, and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.
- This means less use of the salt shaker. Also check labels on prepared foods. Limit dining out, too, because processed and restaurant foods are usually packed with sodium.
Greatly limit sugary drinks and alcohol. Drink water, coffee, tea, and 100-percent fruit juice instead of regular sodas, fruit drinks, and energy drinks. Limit alcoholic drinks to 1 a day for women, 2 for men.
Increase physical activity. Physical activity needs to go hand in hand with improved nutrition.
- Adults should get at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, such as brisk walking, or
- 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging or swimming laps, or a combination of the two types.
- Kids and teens should do an hour or more of moderate-intensity to vigorous physical activity each day
The latest guidelines also address eating behaviors, such as when you eat, where you eat, how often you eat, and how much you eat. Behaviors like eating breakfast, snacking, portion control, and eating fast foods all matter as well as your food choices.