New Dietary Guidelines Focus on Balance, Better Food Choices
Article date: January 31, 2011
By Rebecca V. Snowden
New dietary guidelines issued today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) outline concrete steps Americans can take to achieve and maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.
The new guidelines are aimed squarely at reducing the rising obesity rate, a main contributor to death and disease in the United States.
“The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are being released at a time when the majority of adults and one in three children is overweight or obese and this is a crisis that we can no longer ignore," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who presented the recommendations today along with Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius. "The bottom line is that most Americans need to trim our waistlines to reduce the risk of developing diet-related chronic disease.”
The guidelines, which are released every 5 years, apply to Americans 2 years old and older, as well as pregnant women and people with chronic disease. This year’s report stresses the importance of creating healthy eating patterns throughout life.
Balance is Key
The 2010 guidelines focus on 2 major concepts: balancing calories in with calories out and making smarter food choices.
Evidence shows people who maintain a healthy weight are good at balancing the calories they eat with the calories they expend through exercise. To that end, the guidelines recommend keeping an eye on calorie intake while sitting less and moving more.
To control calories, the guidelines emphasize portion control; increasing whole grains, vegetables, and fruit; switching to leaner meats and low-fat dairy; and drinking water instead of juice or soda.
The report offers clear guidelines for physical activity, broken down by age group. Children and adolescents should aim for 60 minutes daily. Adults should try for at least 2-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly, with 2 days of strength training that works the major muscle groups. However, the overall goal is to reduce inactivity –any amount of activity is better than none, the guidelines say.
American Cancer Society guidelines also recommend balancing calories eaten with exercise, and choosing whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean meats.
"There are many areas of overlap between these new guidelines and the ACS Guidelines for Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention," says Marji McCullough, ScD, RD, American Cancer Society strategic director of nutritional epidemiology. "Chief among them is the emphasis on prevention of obesity, and achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight through balancing caloric intake with physical activity. ACS additionally recommends limiting consumption of red and processed meat to lower cancer risk."
Smarter Food Choices
In addition to outlining what Americans should be eating – lean proteins, a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, seafood instead of meat and poultry, and whole grains -- the guidelines also call out what we shouldn’t be eating, namely sugar, sodium, and saturated fat.
The guidelines recommend all Americans reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2300 milligrams (mg); anyone over 50, African Americans and people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should reduce it further, to 1500 mg. Also on the watch-list: saturated fat (less than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fat), cholesterol (aim for less than 300mg per day), solid fats such as lard, and alcohol (up to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men).
Families should also strive to incorporate foods that offer the biggest bang for the nutritional buck – what the guidelines call “nutrient dense” foods. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products, and lean meats and poultry all fall into this category. Avoid foods that have been prepared with added salts, fats, and sugars.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines also includes tools to help Americans make healthier choices, including diet templates. There is also a section that discusses how to properly handle and prepare food to help reduce food-borne illnesses. The USDA and HHS plan to expand these tools in the coming months, as part of the Obama administration’s initiatives for healthier living.
To read the guidelines, visit USDA.gov.
The American Cancer Society has tools and information to help you live a healthier lifestyle. For more on the Society's guidelines, click here.
Reviewed by Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff
Thank you for your feedback.