Issue: March 2011
March 01, 2011
2 min read

Dietary guidelines for Americans updated

Issue: March 2011
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New dietary recommendations from the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services call for caloric reduction to sustain a healthy weight and increased consumption of nutrient-dense foods and drinks. Recommendations remain generally unchanged from the last update 5 years ago.

Because more than one-third of US children and more than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, the update places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.

“These new and improved dietary recommendations give individuals the information to make thoughtful choices of healthier foods in the right portions and to complement those choices with physical activity,” USDA secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release. “The bottom line is that most Americans need to trim our waistlines to reduce the risk of developing diet-related chronic disease. Improving our eating habits is not only good for every individual and family, but also for our country.”

Key recommendations issued

The government calls for balancing calories with physical activity; consumption of more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy, seafood and other healthy foods; and less consumption of sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and refined grains.

Some recommendations include:

  • Reducing sodium to less than 2,300 for the general population and to 1,500 mg for people aged 51 years and older, black Americans and those who have diabetes, hypertension and chronic kidney disease, or related risk factors. According to the document, the 1,500-mg recommendation applies to about half of the US population.
  • Less than 10% of total calories from saturated fatty acids;
  • Less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol;
  • 4,700 mg of daily potassium;
  • At least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day;
  • No more than 14 g per 1,000 calories of fiber;
  • Less than 3 ounces of refined grains;
  • Reducing intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars;
  • Moderate alcohol intake: one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men; and
  • Fats should be 20% to 35% of total calories; trans fats should account for less than 1% of total calories.

Additionally, the guidelines include six additional recommendations for specific population groups. Women who may become pregnant are encouraged to choose iron-rich foods and to consume 400 mcg per day of synthetic folic acid in addition to food forms of folate. Pregnant and breast-feeding women are encouraged to eat 8 ounces to 12 ounces of seafood per week; limit white tuna to 6 ounces per week; take an iron supplement; and not consume tilefish, shark, swordfish or king mackerel. Older adults aged 50 years and older should consume foods that are fortified with vitamin B12, such as cereals and dietary supplements.

The dietary guidelines are available here.