What a healthy diet needs more of (and less of)
We've all heard that eating the right foods is one of the best ways to stay healthy. But it's not always easy to figure out the "right foods." To help Americans make informed food choices, every five years the federal government weighs in with evidence-based nutritional guidance. Dietary Guidelines for Americans is designed to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases and, in some cases, decrease waistlines.
The seventh edition of Dietary Guidelines emphasizes calorie reduction and increased physical activity. Overall, Americans are consuming too much sodium as well as too many calories from solid fats, added sugars and refined grains. The newly released guidelines recommend Americans age 2 and older consume less:
Sodium - Reduce daily intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and1,500 mg for people 51 and older. The new dietary guidelines also recommend 1,500 mg of sodium or less for people who have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease as well as for African Americans.
Saturated fatty acids - Replace these with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Dietary cholesterol - Limit consumption to less than 300 mg per day.
Trans fatty acids and solid fats - Limit foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils. Try to replace solid fats with oils.
Added sugars and refined grains - Limit your consumption of both of these, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars and sodium.
What do the new Dietary Guidelines encourage us to include in diets:
Fruits and vegetables - Munch more fruit and a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green and red and orange vegetables, as well as beans and peas.
Whole grains - Make half of all the grains you eat whole grains.
Fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products - Make these choices when buying milk, yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages.
Protein foods - Choices include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and
peas. Soy products, unsalted nuts and seeds also are good protein sources.
Seafood - Replace some meat and poultry with a variety of seafood.
How do these recommendations translate to everyday life? Here are some ideas:
Avoid oversized portions.
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk.
Check the sodium levels in foods like canned soup, packaged bread, and frozen meals, choosing those with lower numbers.
Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Of course, combine all of this with regular physical activity to make Dietary Guidelines more than just a series of recommendations.