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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well


Dietary Guidelines 2010 - Messages for consumers

Ellen Schuster, Associate State Nutrition Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


The newly released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans aim to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. In addition, the updated guidelines recognize the role that environmental settings play in helping — or hurting — efforts to eat healthy and be physically active. This report, from the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also provides information about keeping your food safe.


The updated guidelines contain 23 science-based recommendations for the general population as well as six additional recommendations for specific population groups, such as women who are pregnant. The guidelines are used to form policies and guidelines for federal nutrition programs and to provide nutrition education for the public. In addition, the food industry uses the guidelines as they develop new products.


Although the Dietary Guidelines haven’t changed very much from the last report released in 2005, the report notes that Americans’ consumption of sodium (salt) continues to be too high. Most healthy Americans should consume less than 2300 milligrams of sodium, about 1 teaspoon of salt, per day. Currently, most of us get about 3400 milligrams of sodium per day. Some groups, such as teen boys, consume even more. The report recommends that if you have hypertension or diabetes, if you are over the age of 51 or if you’re African American, your goal should be to get 1500 milligrams of sodium or less per day, which is about 2/3 of a teaspoon of salt. These recommendations to reduce sodium will be a challenge for most Americans because we eat so much processed food which contains sodium. Although there are low-salt choices at the grocery store, it is hard to get used to the low-salt options. Using spices and herbs instead of salt will improve the taste of food without increasing the sodium.


In the next few months, consumer information based on these guidelines will be made available. Consumers can take action on the Dietary Guidelines by making changes in these three areas:


Balance calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.


Foods to increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.


Foods to reduce

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals — and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.


Be active your way

  • Balance healthy eating with regular physical activity.


2010 Dietary Guidelines — Selected messages for consumers (pdf)


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Last update: Friday, September 23, 2011