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Eating a healthy balance of nutritious foods continues as a central point in the Dietary Guidelines

Updated: Thursday, Jun 03,2010, 10:57:13 AM
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What we eat is a crucial part of staying healthy. Many chronic conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, can be controlled or even prevented by a healthy diet, according to nutrition experts. Every five years the federal government, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), issues dietary guidelines. The sixth and latest edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity. It is the basis of federal food programs and nutrition education programs.

Eating a healthy balance of nutritious foods continues as a central point in the Dietary Guidelines, but balancing nutrients is not enough for health, according to USDA. Total calories also count, especially as more Americans are gaining weight. Because almost two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and more than half get too little physical activity, the Dietary Guidelines place a strong emphasis on calorie control and physical activity.

As part of the guidelines, a graphic called MyPyramid, was created. It replaces the old food guide pyramid. The MyPyramid symbol is meant to encourage consumers to make healthier food choices and to be active every day. The MyPyramid symbol represents the recommended proportion of foods from each food group and focuses on the importance of making smart food choices in every food group, every day. Physical activity is a new element in the symbol.

MyPyramid illustrates:

    * Personalization - shown by the person on the steps
    * Gradual improvement - encouraged by the slogan, "Steps to a Healthier You." It suggests that individuals can benefit from taking small steps to improve their diet and lifestyle each day.
    * Physical activity - represented by the steps and the person climbing them, as a reminder of the importance of daily physical activity.

      Variety - symbolized by the six color bands representing the five food groups of MyPyramid and oils. The colors and the groups are:

          o Orange - Grains
          o Green - Vegetables
          o Red - Fruit
          o Yellow - Oils
          o Blue - Milk products
          o Purple - Meats & Beans

      Foods from all groups are needed each day for good health.
    * Moderation - represented by the narrowing of each food group from bottom to top. The wider base stands for foods with little or no solid fats, added sugars or caloric sweeteners. These should be selected more often to get the most nutrition from calories consumed.
    * Proportionality - shown by the different widths of the food group bands. The widths suggest how much food a person should choose from each group. The widths are just a general guide, not exact proportions.

The Guidelines identify 41 key recommendations, of which 23 are for the general public and 18 for special populations. They are grouped into nine general topics:

    * Adequate Nutrients Within Calorie Needs
    * Weight Management
    * Physical Activity
    * Food Groups to Encourage
    * Fats
    * Carbohydrates
    * Sodium and Potassium
    * Alcoholic Beverages
    * Food Safety

Following is a list of key recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Key Recommendations for the General Population

    * Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and among the basic food groups while choosing foods that limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.
    * Meet recommended intakes within energy needs by adopting a balanced eating pattern, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan.

Weight management

    * To maintain body weight in a healthy range, balance calories from foods and beverages with calories expended.
    * To prevent gradual weight gain over time, make small decreases in food and beverage calories and increase physical activity.
Physical activity

    * Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities to promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight.
          o To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, above usual activity, at work or home on most days of the week.
          o For most people, greater health benefits can be obtained by engaging in physical activity of more vigorous intensity or longer duration.
          o To help manage body weight and prevent gradual, unhealthy body weight gain in adulthood: Engage in approximately 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week while not exceeding caloric intake requirements.
          o To sustain weight loss in adulthood: Participate in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while not exceeding caloric intake requirements. Some people may need to consult with a healthcare provider before participating in this level of activity.
    * Achieve physical fitness by including cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility, and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.

Food groups to encourage

    * Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs. Two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level.
    * Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables and other vegetables) several times a week.
    * Consume three or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half the grains should come from whole grains.
    * Consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.


    * Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol, and keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible.
    * Keep total fat intake between 20 to 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils.
    * When selecting and preparing meat, poultry, dry beans, and milk or milk products, make choices that are lean, low fat or fat free.
    * Limit intake of fats and oils high in saturated and/or trans fatty acids, and choose products low in such fats and oils.


    * Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains often.
    * Choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners, such as amounts suggested by the USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan.
    * Reduce the incidence of dental caries by practicing good oral hygiene and consuming sugar- and starch-containing foods and beverages less frequently.

Sodium and potassium

    * Consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt) of sodium per day.
    * Choose and prepare foods with little salt. At the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

Alcoholic beverages

    * Those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation-defined as the consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
    * Alcoholic beverages should not be consumed by some individuals, including those who cannot restrict their alcohol intake, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, pregnant and lactating women, children and adolescents, individuals taking medications that can interact with alcohol and those with specific medical conditions.
    * Alcoholic beverages should be avoided by individuals engaging in activities that require attention, skill or coordination, such as driving or operating machinery.

Food safety

To avoid microbial foodborne illness:

    * Clean hands, food contact surfaces, and fruits and vegetables. Meat and poultry should not be washed or rinsed.
    * Separate raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing or storing foods.
    * Cook foods to a safe temperature to kill microorganisms.
    * Chill (refrigerate) perishable food promptly and defrost foods properly.
    * Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk or any products made from unpasteurized milk, raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs, raw or undercooked meat and poultry, unpasteurized juices, and raw sprouts.

Tags: Dietary Guidelines

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