The USDA Dietary
guidelines for balanced healthy eating (illustrated by the Food Guide Pyramid)
are issued by the US Department of Agriculture.
Guidelines for Americans
The Dietary Guidelines
for Americans attempt to answer three questions: What should we eat, how should
we prepare it to keep it safe and nutritious, and what sort of exercise is best
for good health. In the latest Dietary Guidelines, published January 2005, there
is a new emphasis on weight management, along with more specific diet advice on
fats, carbohydrate and dairy foods.
The Dietary Guidelines
of 2000 attracted criticism from several dietitians, nutritionists and expert
groups (e.g. Harvard School of Public Health, who built their own Healthy
Eating Pyramid). These critics have welcomed several of the new diet
recommendations contained in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines - on issues like
weight control, consumption of trans-fats and whole grains - but concerns remain.
Even so, these new guidelines for healthy balanced eating are a considerable
improvement on the old ones and should generally be welcomed.
Dietary Guidelines for
Americans (2005) - Main Recommendations
Basic Advice About
a variety of nutrient-dense foods and drinks among the basic food groups.
Choose foods that restrict your intake of saturated and trans fats,
cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.
a balanced eating pattern, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) Food Guide or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)
Recommendations For a
- Consume an adequate amount of fruit and vegetables but
stay within the correct calorie level for a healthy weight.
- On a 2000-calorie diet, eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 and a
half cups of vegetables per day. Eat more or less according to your
- Eat a variety of fruit and vegetables each day. Choose
from all five vegetable sub-groups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy
vegetables, and other vegetables) several times a week.
- Consume 3 or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain
foods each day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from
enriched or whole-grain products. At least half your grains should come
from whole grains. Eating at least 3 ounce-equivalents of whole grains per
day can reduce the risk of heart disease, may help with weight
maintenance, and will lower your health risk for other chronic diseases.
- Consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or
equivalent milk products.Adults and children can consume milk and milk
products without worrying that these foods lead to weight gain. There are
many fat-free and low-fat choices without added sugars that are available
and consistent with an overall healthy dietary plan. If a person has
difficulty drinking milk, ...choose alternatives within the milk food
group, such as yogurt or lactose-free milk, or consume the enzyme lactose
prior to the consumption of milk products. For people who must avoid all
milk products (e.g. individuals with lactose intolerance, vegans),
non-dairy calcium-containing alternatives may be chosen to help meet
Dietary Fat in a
- Eat less than ten percent of calories from saturated
fats and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol, and eat as few trans-fats
(hydrogenated fat) as possible.
- Maintain your total intake of fats/oils at between
20-35 percent of calories, with most fat coming from polyunsaturated and
monounsaturated fat, such as oily fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
- Regarding meat, poultry, dry beans, and milk or milk
products, choose lean, low-fat, or fat-free options.
Carbohydrate in a
- Eat fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as
often as possible.
- Consume foods and drinks with little added sugars or
caloric sweeteners. Follow the recommendations in the USDA Food Guide and
the DASH Eating Plan.
Dietary Protein in a
The Dietary Guidelines
did not directly address the issue of protein. They state:
"While protein is an important
macro nutrient in the diet, most Americans are already currently consuming
enough and do not need to increase their intake. As such, protein consumption,
while important for nutrient adequacy, is not a focus of this document."
However, they do recommend you to
choose foods that contain lean protein. They state:
Eat lean meats and poultry. Bake,
broil, or grill food.
Eat a variety of protein rich foods, with more fish, beans, peas, nuts and
Dietary Sodium and
- Eat less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 teaspoon of
salt) of sodium per day.
- Choose low-sodium foods, and do not add salt when
cooking. Also, eat potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetable.