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The New 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Fitday Editor
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On January 31st, 2011, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is the federal government's nutritional guide for healthy Americans aged 2 years and older. This guide (now the 7th edition, reviewed and updated every 5 years) was established from evidence-based scientific research to, "promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity." So what do the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say and how can you apply these guidelines to your everyday eating and physical activity habits? The new recommendations focus on three main ideas--balancing calories to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, increasing nutrient-dense foods, and decreasing other foods.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include 23 "Key Recommendations" for the general public, with 6 additional "Key Recommendations" for specific groups. Due to the overwhelming prevalence of obesity in America, both among children and adults, the Dietary Guidelines is now emphasizing reducing total calorie intake and increasing physical activity. Another big focus of the new Dietary Guidelines is recommending a shift in our food consumption patterns. People are encouraged to consume more of certain foods (and specific nutrients) and less of others.

Americans should eat more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, vegetable oils (such as canola, corn, olive, peanut and soybean oil), and seafood. Fill ½ your plate with fruits and vegetables.

Americans should eat less added sugars, solid fats (including trans fats), refined grains, and sodium. Enjoy food but steer clear of oversized portions and drink water in place of sugar-sweetened beverages.

One of the biggest changes to the Dietary Guidelines is the recommendation for sodium intake. The Dietary Guidelines are sticking with their previous recommendation of limiting sodium to 2,300 mg per day or less (about 1 teaspoon of salt) for most people, but is now recommending that people who are over 51 years old, African-American or who have high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes reduce their daily sodium intake to 1,500 mg or less (about ? of a teaspoon of salt). The Dietary Guidelines suggest specific ways to reduce sodium and encourage Americans to compare sodium on food labels and choose items with lower numbers.

Another change to the new Dietary Guidelines is shifting the focus toward the types of fats people eat and away from the overall amount of fat in the diet. It's still recommended that Americans consume less than 10% of their total calories from saturated fat (found in solid fats such as animal products, tropical oils, and foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils), but the emphasis is now on replacing unhealthy saturated fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (found in fish, liquid vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, olives and avocados).

The USDA and HHS will release more consumer-friendly advice and resources, including a new Food Pyramid, in the next few months. The complete 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans can be found at, or to get a more brief, consumer-friendly explanation, read the executive summary at

Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at

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