Dietary Guidelines for America
Dietary Guidelines for Americans are the federal government's evidence-based nutritional guidelines to encourage health, reduce the risk of disease, and reduce obesity through good nutrition and adequate physical activity. The guidelines are reviewed, updated if necessary, and published every 5 years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) work together to create the guidelines. Most recently, the 2010 version was released.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010:
- Balance calories with physical activity to manage weight
- Consume more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood
- Consume less sodium (salt), saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains
With obesity rates among adults and children skyrocketing, the US Department of Agriculture released a new food guide, known as MyPlate. MyPlate replaces the traditional food guide pyramid, and is a dinner plate logo divided into four sections:
A fifth smaller section is located on the side, to represent the dairy group. The emphasis with the new MyPlate is on portion control, balance, and ensuring that half of every meal is fruit and/or vegetable. Additional suggestions with MyPlate:
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
- Make at least half your grains whole grains
- Choose lean sources of protein
- Choose lower sodium foods, checking labels on convenience and pre-packaged foods
- Quench your thirst with water instead of sugary drinks
- Enjoy your food, but eat less
Find more information about specific food groups, including how much of each food group is necessary, why each food group is important, and tips for including each food group.
The MyPlate website has a variety of helpful tools, including a BMI calculator, and the best resource is the SuperTracker. SuperTracker is designed to help Americans implement the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
MyPlate Kids' Place includes fun games, activity sheets, video, how to move more, and recipes for kids of all ages at www.choosemyplate.gov/kids/.
SuperTracker is a hands-on resource to help you plan, analyze, and improve your diet and physical activity. Some of the helpful features:
- Food-A-Pedia: look up nutrition info for over 8,000 foods and compare foods side-by-side
- Weight Manager: enter your weight and track changes over time
- Food Tracker: see how you are measuring up against your nutrition targets
- My Top 5 Goals: set goals on what you wish to achieve, and sign up for tips and personal advice from a virtual coach
- My Reports: see your progress over time and how you are measuring up to your goals
SuperTracker can revolutionize the way you eat and stay active, and put you on track to achieve your goals.
The ChooseMyPlate website also has a Portion Distortion quiz, so you can test your estimation on calories found in certain foods.
Since most popular foods don’t fit into just one food group, estimating food group amounts in mixed dishes can get tricky. Use this helpful guide to figure out how to do that.
Proper nutrition is important in every stage of life, and ChooseMyPlate offers specific nutrition advice for:
Fruits and Vegetables
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help you maintain a healthy weight and prevent illness and chronic disease. Only about one quarter of Americans eat the recommended level of fruits and vegetables. Find your recommended intake of fruits and vegetables.
Common barriers to fruit and vegetable consumption include lack of knowledge about how to prepare them, lack of time to include them, and family member dislike—especially when it comes to young children. Below are listed suggested solutions to such barriers:
- How do I know what is in season?
- How to make fruits and vegetables affordable and a Smart Shopping tipsheet?
- Do I have to buy organic fruits and vegetables
- How do I store my leftover fruits or vegetables so they don’t spoil before I can use them up?
- How do I get my kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, through snacks, recipes, and other dishes?
- I don't have a lot of time for meal preparation. How can I still include fruits and vegetables?
- I'm entertaining guests. How can I impress them and still cook healthily with fruits and vegetables? Find Top 10 ways to spice up your parties with fruits and veggies.
Health benefits of whole grains include reduced risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Whole grains have antioxidants and many vitamins and minerals which are essential to good health. Find out more about the benefits, and what counts as a whole grain.
When it comes to a packaged item which claims to be whole grain, before you buy, do a bit of investigative work. That “whole grain cracker” might only contain a small amount of whole grain. If the first ingredient listed contains the word "whole" (such as "whole wheat flour" or "whole oats"), it is likely that the product is mainly whole grain. Learn guidelines on how to pick whole wheat products.
Learn how sugary drinks contribute to obesity and associated chronic diseases. Join the challenge to reduce sugary drink consumption. Learn how you and your family can have a sweeter life. Learn how your organization/community/institution can make life sweeter. Support a realistic goal to help reduce consumption of soda and other sugary drinks from 10 cans to a maximum of three cans per week by 2020, a healthy target proposed by the American Heart Association.
- It can be tricky estimating one ounce of meat, or a tablespoon of dressing, but this guide will give you some practical estimating techniques.
- Mayo Clinic has a slide show which can help visualize certain foods in their correct portions.
- Feeling pretty confident at estimating portions? Try your hand at one of these eye-opening quizzes:
- Portion control can be tricky when eating out. Try these tips for controlling portion sizes in a variety of settings.
- Check out some of the research that shows that poor portion control can lead to overeating.
Sources of good nutrition information
There are many sources on the internet for recipes. How can you find recipes that you know are healthy? Here are some dependable sites that also include nutrition information.
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is a trustworthy source for nutrition information. There are daily tips and a question of the day, as well as a feature on reviews of popular diet books so that you can avoid diet scams.
- If you wish to find a local Registered Dietitian and speak with them directly, this Dietitian Locator will be helpful.
- Find reviews of current diet books and trends.
- Mayo Clinic You can search by special diet, such as high fiber, heart-healthy, or meatless. It also lets you search for recipes by main ingredient, say if you wanted a fruit-based dessert. And each recipe has the nutritional information at the bottom, informing you of calories and fat per serving, and how many diabetic exchanges a dish is, if you are on a diabetic diet.
- The American Institute for Cancer Research promotes foods that can help fight cancer. Their research on specific foods translates into delicious recipes that promote health.
- National Institutes of Health offers recipes that are heart healthy and include important information about the serving size, number of servings, calories, and other nutrients. Also includes heart healthy Latino recipes, in Spanish and English.
- Fruits & Veggies - More Matters has healthy recipes and videos using fruits and vegetables.
- CalorieKing is a great site for looking up the nutritional information of almost any food. It can help you make wise decision and compare and contrast similar foods. It also can be a resource for restaurant menu choices.
Red Flags for Misinformation on Nutrition
The media and internet are great sources for nutrition information. Along with good information, there is a lot of misinformation that can even harm your health. There are many things you can look for when evaluating the credibility of a source. Ask yourself these questions when evaluating:
- Does the information seem too good to be true?
- Does it say you will be able to get quick and easy results?
- Does the information come from a trendy magazine, newspaper, news report or website that ends in .com?
- Is the source trying to sell you something?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes then you need to be a little more careful in what you believe from that source. Credible nutrition information sources should usually have the following characteristics:
- Involve eating healthy with all things in moderation, and exercising
- Seem to show slow but steady results
- Be backed by journals and published research (i.e. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
- Come from a nonprofit organization or websites that end in .gov or .org (i.e. Eatright.org, Choosemyplate.gov, Usda.gov, Americanheart.org, Diabetes.org, Utahbreastfeeding.org, Health.utah.gov/WIC/)