USDA/HHS Announce Healthy Dietary Guidelines

Reviewed by Susan Canonico, RD

In January 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new dietary guidelines to help Americans make healthy food choices. According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, "The Guidelines are being released when the majority of adults and 1 in 3 children in the United States are overweight or obese—a crisis we can no longer ignore!" For this reason, the guidelines focus on balancing calories with activity at each stage of life and reducing calories if you weigh more than you should.

The guidelines encourage Americans to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and seafood. They encourage us to eat less sodium, saturated and trans fats, sugars, and refined grains.

Key Recommendations of the USDA/HHS 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

 Balancing Calories to Manage a Healthy Weight 

  • Prevent/reduce overweight/obesity with improved eating and more physical activity
  • Control calories to manage weight
  • Consume fewer calories to reduce weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Increase physical activity
  • Balance calories during childhood, adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and old age

Foods and Food Components to Reduce Weight

  • Reduce daily sodium to
    • <2300 milligrams per day
    • < 1500 mg if you are age 51 years or older, African American, or if you are a child or adult with high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease
  • Consume < 10 percent of your calories from saturated fatty acids and replace them with mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Consume < 300 mg per day of cholesterol
  • Limit solid fats and foods with synthetic sources of trans fats such as partially hydrogenated oils
  • Reduce calories from solid fats and sugars
  • Limit refined grains, especially those with solid fats, added sugars, and sodium
  • Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day if you are a woman and 2 drinks per day if you are a man

Increase Healthy Foods and Essential Nutrients, While Staying Within Calorie Limits

  • Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat
  • Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark green, red, and orange vegetables, beans, and peas
  • Ensure that at least half of the grains you eat are whole grains
  • Exchange high-fat dairy foods with fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, and fortified soy beverages
  • Eat a variety of proteins, including seafood, lean meats, chicken, eggs, beans, peas, soy, and unsalted nuts and seeds
  • Choose seafood often instead of meat and chicken; vary the type of seafood you eat
  • Replace high-calorie solid-fat proteins and oils with low-calorie solid-fat proteins and oils
  • Use oils to replace solid fats
  • Choose food high in potassium, fiber, calcium, and vitamin D

Build Healthy Eating Patterns

  • Be sure your eating patterns meet your nutrient and calorie needs over time
  • Keep track of all the foods and beverages you consume; consider whether they fit in your healthy eating pattern and eliminate or reduce them if they do not
  • Follow food safety recommendations to reduce illness when preparing and eating foods

If You Would Like to Become Pregnant

  • Choose foods that contain heme iron that can be easily absorbed; choose additional iron sources and vitamin-C rich foods that can help you absorb iron
  • Eat 400 micrograms (mcg) per day of synthetic folic acid, which can be found in fortified foods and supplements; eat a diet rich in folic acid from a variety of foods

If You Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding

  • Eat 8 to 12 ounces of varied seafoods per week
  • Limit tuna fish to 6 ounces per week and do not eat tilefish, swordfish, and king mackerel to avoid methyl mercury
  • Take an iron supplement each day as recommended by your doctor

If You Are Age 50 Years or Older

  • Eat foods fortified with vitamin B12 such as fortified cereals; take vitamin B12 supplements

"Whatever your age, the USDA/HHS Guidelines are a great place to start if you'd like to establish a sensible diet, maintain your weight or lose weight, and be sure you're getting the nutrients you need to be healthy," says Summit Medical Group registered dietitian Susan Canonico. "I can partner with you to create a meal plan that helps achieve your goals. If you have diabetes, our registered dietician and certified diabetes educator Margaret Eckler can teach you to manage your blood sugar and help you protect your overall health with smart dietary choices."

Ms. Canonico adds, "Many people want to adopt a thoughtful approach to eating, but it's often difficult to do it alone. In addition to creating a plan that's tailored to you, we can help you stick with your plan."

Click here to see the USDA Choose My Plate site, where you can look up a food, learn about food groups, get a personalized plan, get healthy eating tips, get weight loss information, plan a healthy menu, analyze your diet, and ask questions.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Summit Medical Group Nutrition Services,
call us today at 908-277-8731.

 Click here for a healthy, quick, and delicious high-fiber recipe for lentil stew.
Pair it with your favorite green salad for a satisfying low-fat, low-calorie meal
that helps meet USDA/HHS recommendations!