Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The dietary guidelines are a set of recommendations for healthy people age two and above that were developed because evidence shows that food choices affect the future health of individuals. Following the guidelines can help reduce your risk for shronic diseases such as heart disease and even certain types of cancer. Every five years the dietary guidelines are updated to stay current. The last update was in 2000.

The dietary guidelines consist of ten guidelines divided into three groups. Each guideline will be discussed in detail.

Aim for Fitness . . .

Build a Healthy Base . . .

Choose Sensibly . . .

Aim for a healthy weight
The first step in aiming for a healthy weight is to evaluate body weight. There are many standards used to evaluate body weight, however most methods measure weight in comparison to height. If a person is in a healthy weight range, their goal is to maintain that weight. If they are under or over their healthy weight range, their goal is to adjust thier lifestyle to reach that range. Using the Dietary Guidelines, the task involves a change in lifestyle. If overweight, increase activity levels. Gradually begin to exercise. Build a healthy base using the Dietary Guidelines. Use the Food Guide Pyramid to choose daily meals and monitor portion sizes. Choose vegetables, fruits, and grains with little fat added. Especially limit portion sizes of foods high in calories such as cookies, cakes, other sweets, french fries, fats, oils, and spreads. Be aware that low fat does not always mean low calories. Sometimes extra sugars are added to low fat food products and the calories are just as high as the regular food product. Combining exercise and diet control may lead to weight loss. A weight loss of 1/2 pound to 1 pound per week is considered safe. The main thing to remember is that behavioral modification is the best method to aim for a healthy weight.

Be physically active each day
It is suggested to accumulate at least 30 minutes (adults) or 60 minutes (children) of moderate physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily. It is best to make physical activity a part of the daily routine. There are two types of physical activity that are benenficial. They include:

Health benefits of regular physical activity include:

Physical activity and nutrition work together. Increasing the calories one uses allows them to eat more, which makes it easier to get the nutrients needed. Calcium is needed along with physical activity to build and maintain strong bones. Below are some examples of physical activities for children and teens.

Let the Pyramid guide your food choices
No one food supplies all the nutrients the body needs. By expanding food choices and building a healthy base using the Food Guide Pyramid, daily nutrient requirements are easily met. It is best to choose the recommended number of daily servings from each of the five major food groups.

The best way to create a healthy eating pattern is to start with the three food groups at the base of the Pyramid: grains, fruits, and vegetables. Keep track of serving sizes. A serving size in the grain group is a slice of bread. Most people eat two slices with a meal, therefore two servings. Many foods are combination foods. For examples tacos contain food items from the grain (shell or tortilla), meat (beef or beans), cheese (choice of cheese), and vegetable (tomatoes, peppers, etc.).

Adolescents and adults over the age of 50 have an increased need for calcium. Dairy products that are low fat or fat should be selected to decrease the amount of saturated fat consumed. Some good sources of calcium include:

When purchasing foods, it is helpful to understand and read the food label. Use the Nutrition Facts column on a food label to compare calories, fat, or saturated fat with similar products. Although the food label is helpful sometimes the serving sizes differ from the serving sizes in the Food Guide Pyramid.

Choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains
Grain food products such as wheat, rice, and oats provide vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates such as starch and dietary fiber, and other substances that are important for good health. Naturally grain products are low in fat, however fat may be added in processing, in preparation, or at the dinner table. Whole grain foods differ from refined grain foods in the amount of fiber and nutrients they provide and some may differ in nutrient content. Whole grain foods may also be helpful in protecting against many chronic diseases. An important ingredient in whole grain foods is fiber. Fiber promotes proper bowel function and may also help a person feel full with fewer calories. Below is a listing of whole grain foods.

Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily
Eating plently of fruits and vegetables daily may protect against many types of chronic dieases. Most people, including children, consume less than the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables per day. It is recommended to eat at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day. Fruits and vegetables contain many different nutrients and are excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, vitamin E, potassium, and even fiber. Usually dark green vegetables, deeply colored fruits, and dry beans and peas are rich in many nutrients. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and are usually very filling. When they are processed, nutrients are sometimes lost. For example an apple contains more fiber than apple juice. Most fruit juices contain little to no fiber. A good rule to follow is to eat a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables. Listed below are sources of common nutrients.

Keep food safe to eat
Foods that are consumed must be safe from harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, and chemical contaminants. In other words safe means that the food has little risk of foodborne illness. Foodborne illness can be caused by eating food that contains harmful bacteria, toxins, parasites, viruses, or chemical contaminants. The most common are Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Norawlk-like viruses. Eating just a small portion of foods with this virus can make a person very ill. Sometimes the signs and symptoms occur after a half hour of eating the food, or it may take up to three weeks. The foodborne illness may last a few hours or even a few days. Those that are at high risk for foodborne illness include:

Important steps must be taken to keep food safe. The first step is to be clean. Wash hands often and keep surfaces clean. Wash hands for 20 seconds with warm soapy water:

After working with raw meats, the counters should be cleaned with hot soapy water. Cutting boards and utencils should also be cleaned. Rinse all raw fruit or vegetables before eating.

The next step is to prevent cross-contamination. Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and shellfish away from other foods, surfaces, utencils, and serving plates. Any type of raw meat should be stored on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator so that the juices don't drip onto other foods.

Next, foods must be cooked to a safe temperature. Also, prevent any foods from falling into the danger zone, 41°F to 140°F for more than two hours. Many meats, raw eggs, egg dishes, pork, and ground meats should be cooked to 160°F. Leftovers, stuffing, and ground poultry should be cooked to 165°F. Poultry breasts should be cooked to 170°F. Whole poultry should be cooked to 180°F.

Perishable foods should be refrigerated quickly to avoid falling into the time temperature danger zone. It is necessary to chill leftovers in the refrigerator immediately upon finishing the meal. The refrigerator temperature should be at 40°F or below. Freeze any fresh meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish that cannot be used within a few days. Frozen meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish should be thawed in the refrigerator, microwave, or cold water that is changed every thirty minutes. Foods should be cooked immediately upon thawing. Never thaw meat at room temperature.

After foods have been cooked to a safe temperature, be sure to seve them at the safe temperature. Keep hot foods hot, or at temperatures of 140°F and above. And keep cold foods cold, or at temperatures of 40°F and below. If you are in doubt of the safey of any food, throw it out.

Choose a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat
Fats are essential because they supply energy and essential fatty acids. Fats help absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and carotenoids. However, types and amounts of fat must be chosen carefully. Saturated fats increase the risk for coronary heart disease by raising the blood cholesterol. Saturated fats include high-fat dairy products, fatty fresh and processed meats, skin and fat of poultry, lard, palm oil, and coconut oil. Unsaturated fats do not increase blood cholesterol. Unsaturated fats include vegetable oils, most nuts, olives, avocados, and fatty fish. Below are some ideas of food choices that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat

Total fat should be no more than 30% of one day's total calories. To achieve this level, it is best to cut back on saturated and trans fats. Trans fatty acids are found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, such as hard margarines and shortening. Trans fatty acids are also in commercially fried foods and some bakery goods. When baking, use vegetable oil instead.

Choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars
Sugars are carbohydrates and also serve as a source of energy. Other carbohydrates include starch and dietary fiber. Foods that contain sugars and starches, along with the amount of bacteria in your mouth and lack of exposure to flourides may cause tooth decay. The more often foods that contain sugars and starches are consumed and the longer that these foods remain in your mouth before brushing your teeth, the chance for tooth decay increases. Frequent eating or drinking sweet or starchy foods between meals increases risk of tooth decay. Proper dental hygeine, such as brushing with flouride toothpaste and flossing helps in preventing tooth decay.

Sugars and syrups are added to foods during processing. These added sugars provide calories, but very little vitamins and minerals. In the United States, the number one source of added sugars is nondiet soft drinks. Other sources of added sugars include sweets, candies, cakes, cookies, and fruit drinks. Consuming a high number of foods with added sugars may result in weight gain or possible tooth decay. Check the Nutrition Facts Label on food products to see if there are any added sugars. Some names for added sugars that appear on food labels include:

Choose and prepare foods with less salt
Many people may reduce their chances of developing high blood pressure by reducing the amount of salt that is consumed. Too much salt in the diet can cause high blood pressure in certain people. There is no way to tell who might develop high blood pressure by consuming high amounts of salt. However, consuming less salt or sodium is not harmful and may be a preventative measure.

Salt is the main source of sodium in foods. Sodium has several functions including:

Sodium needs for healthy adults and children are 2,400 milligrams per day. That is the amount of sodium in 1 teaspoon of salt. This teaspoon of salt is usually exceeded by adding salt at the dinner table. Many processed foods add salt during processing and many preparation methods require the use of salt. Not all foods with added salt tase salty, but may be high in sodium. Preferences for salt may decrease if smaller amounts of salt or salty seasonings are added over a period of time. Listed below are some ways to decrease salt intake:

If you, as an adult, drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation
This guideline was not discussed in the member's manual. Only nutritional aspects of alcohol consumption are addressed.

Alcoholic beverages are harmful when consumed in excess and therefore should not be consumed. If one wishes to consume alcoholic beverages, it must be done in moderation. Moderation is defined as:

The limit was developed and based on differences in weight and metabolism. A drink is considered 12 ounces of regular beer or 5 ounces of wine.

Alcoholic beverages supply calories but few or no nutrients. Drinking alcoholic beverages are linked with many health problems, including:

Some people should not drink alcoholic beverages at all. These include:


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