What are the dietary guidelines?

The dietary guidelines for Americans are a set of principles developed by the US department of Agriculture and the US Department of Health and Human Services to help Americans in designing a healthful diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle. They are updated every 5 years. I’m going to be describing some of the key recommendations of the dietary guidelines.

It is important to consume adequate nutrients to promote health while maintaining your calorie needs. Primary recommendations include consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within the food groups while also choosing foods that are limited in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt and alcohol. Nutrient dense foods are foods that have the highest amount of nutrients for the least amount of calories. Some examples of ways you can change your lifestyle are if you normally watch TV when you get home at night, you should try doing 30 minutes of stretching or lifting in front of the TV; if you g out to lunch with friends, take a 15-30 minute walk with your friends at lunchtime 3 days a week; if you normally eat white bread, eat whole grain bread or other bread made with whole grains; if you normally choose cookies or a candy bar for a snack, choose a fresh fruit to snack on.. I’m sure your craving will go away once you’ve eaten something and you will feel better about yourself once you do so!

Being overweight or obese increases the risk for many chronic diseases. These including, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some kinds of cancer. It is important to maintain body weight in a healthful range by balancing calories from foods and beverages with calories expended. To help prevent gaining weight over time, we should make small decreases in food and beverage calories and increase our physical activity level.

Engaging in physical activity and reducing sedentary lifestyle activities are important to promote health, psychological well-being and maintain a healthful body weight. People may also be encouraged to achieve physical fitness by doing cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility and resistance exercises for muscle strength and endurance. By exercising for 30 minutes a day can reduce risks for developing chronic diseases. 30 minutes is a minimum so people who are already doing more activity then this should continue to live their healthy lifestyle. Being physically active 60 to 90 minutes a day on most days of the week is the recommended amount to prevent weight gain and promote weight loss however.

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is important to ensure that we consume various nutrients we need to benefit our health. Some nutrients provided by fruits and vegetables are vitamin A, C, folate, and potassium. People are encouraged to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables selecting from all five vegetable subgroups which are dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and others. It is also important to eat 3 or more ounces of whole grain foods each day and to consume 3 cups of low fat or fat free milk or dairy products a day.

Fat is important because it provides energy and it contains important nutrients such as essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. Because fats are energy dense, eating a diet high in total fat can lead to being overweight or obese. Recommendations are to include less than 10% of calories from saturated fat and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol. Total fat should be 20-35% of total energy intake mostly coming from fish, nuts and vegetable oils.

High carbohydrate foods are also an important source of energy and essential nutrients. It is important here to include fiber rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains and choosing and preparing foods and beverages with little added sugars. Also, foods high in sugar and starch promote tooth decay so it is best to limit yourself of these foods.

Sodium and Potassium are both major minerals that are essential for health in adequate amounts. Potassium consumption is linked to healthful blood pressure levels and excessive sodium consumption is linked to high blood pressure in some people. Eating a lot of sodium also can cause some people to lose calcium from the bones leading to bone loss and bone fractures. Much of the salt consumed in the diet comes from processed or prepared foods. The recommendations are to consume less than 2,300 mg/day of sodium which is approximately only 1 tsp. of salt! Here it is important to keep in mind to limit the amount of processed foods that are being eaten and aim for fresh foods!

Alcohol is a favorite of many and although it provides energy, it doesn’t contain any nutrients. It depresses the nervous system and is toxic to the liver and other body cells. Drinking these beverages in excess amounts can lead to serious health problems. Moderation is a key factor here meaning that no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks for men. People who should not be drinking any alcohol are women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, pregnant and lactating women, children and adolescents, individuals who are on medications that can’t interfere with alcohol and people who are engaging in activities that require attention, skill or coordination.

It is important to follow these guidelines because it will lead us all to achieve our success at being healthy individuals as well as stop the obesity epidemic in our country.


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