Archive for Wednesday, January 19, 2005

New guidelines to focus on intake of nutrients

January 19, 2005


Q: I know that the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released. Can you summarize the recommendations for me?

A: Yes. The guidelines lay the groundwork and the United States Department of Agriculture's new food guidance system, which will replace the 12-year-old Food Guide Pyramid, will be announced at a later date.

At a recent conference that I attended, Dr. Patricia Britten from the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotions shared information about the soon to be announced Food Guidance System. She said we could expect to see at least two major changes.

First, the Food Guidance System will be a graphic symbol that will be used as a "branding icon." It will not directly convey educational messages, but will instead direct consumers to information. Second, forget servings. The focus will be on recommended daily amounts in cups or ounces based on caloric needs instead of emphasizing the number and size of servings per day for each food group. She said the core messages would focus on increasing intake of nutrients, lowering the risk for chronic diseases and keeping energy intake balanced with needs.

The Dietary Guidelines for the General Population recommends the following:

Adequate nutrients with calorie needs

  • 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 Food Guide or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 2 1/4 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 3 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.


  • 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.

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.

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