Rita Hodges

Extension Service

USDA recently announced the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government evidence-based nutritional guidance to promote health, reduce the risks of chronic diseases and reduces prevalence of overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity.

Begin to take action on the Dietary Guidelines by making changes in three areas.

1. Balancing


Enjoy your food, but eat less. The total number of calories consumed is what is important. The best advice is to monitor what you eat and replace foods higher in calories with nutrient-dense foods and beverages that are lower in calories.

Decrease your intake of added fats and sugars and increase your intake of lower calories, nutrient dense whole grains, vegetables and fruits:

• Moderate evidence shows that adults who eat more whole grains, particularly those higher in dietary fiber, have a lower body weight compared to adults who eat fewer whole grains.

• Moderate evidence in adults and limited evidence in children and adolescents suggests increased intake of vegetables and or fruit may protect against weight gain.

Avoid oversized portions.

People eat and drink more when they are given larger portions. Downsize your portion size. Eat off smaller plates and or serve smaller portions at home.

When eating out:

• Share a meal or take home part of the meal.

• Consider asking for the to-go box right away and put half the meal away so you can’t see it.

• Review the calorie content of foods and beverages offered and choose lower-calorie options. Calorie information may be available on menus, in a pamphlet, on food wrappers or online.

2. Foods to increase

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green and red and orange vegetables and cooked dry beans and peas. As a general guideline, your plate should contain half fruits and vegetables. Divide the other half between a protein and a grain source. Make half of your grains whole grains.

Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk.

Increase your intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages. If you are drinking whole milk, gradually switch to lower fat options.

Lower fat milk and milk products provide the same nutrients as higher fat milk, but is lower in calories, fat and cholesterol.

3. Foods to reduce

Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals and choose the foods with lower numbers.

A strong body of evidence supports that as sodium intake for adults decreases, so does blood pressure. There is moderate evidence the same is true for children.

The key recommendations for sodium are as follows:

• Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg.

• Further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.

The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children and the majority of adults.

Check the Nutrition Facts labels on foods for sodium content.

Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Added sugars contribute an average of 16 percent of the total calories in American diets. As a percent of calories from total added sugars, a major source of added sugars in the diets of Americans is soda, energy drinks and sports drinks (36 percent of added sugar intake).

Strong evidence shows children and adolescents who consumer more sugar-sweetened beverages have higher body weight compared to those who drink less and moderate evidence also supports this relationship in adults.

Sugar-sweetened beverages provide excess calories and few essential nutrients to the diet and should only be consumed when nutrient needs have been met and without exceeding daily calorie limits. Reduce the intake of sugary drinks by:

• Drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages.

• Substituting water and other beverages with few or no calories for sugar-sweetened beverages.

Helping Americans incorporate these guidelines into their everyday lives is important to improving the overall health of the American people. The new Dietary Guidelines provide concrete action steps to help people live healthier, more physically active and longer lives.

For more information, contact Rita M. Hodges, county extension agent for family and consumer sciences, 701 S. Interstate 35E, Suite 3, Waxahachie; call 972-825-5175; or email rmhodges@ag.tamu.edu.