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2010 Dietary Guidelines


2010 Dietary Guidelines

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

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Every five years the government issues guidance on what to eat and what not to eat for good health. For the first time, the new 2010 United States Dietary Guidelines (DG) are based on foods and lifestyle choices to reduce the escalating obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemics. Recommendations are centered on the latest and strongest scientific evidence associated with diet, nutrition and health.

To help consumers make sense and interpret the guidelines, the U.S. Department of Agriculture introduced a new visual plate that will replace the food pyramid. The plate is divided into four relatively equal sections for protein, vegetables, fruits and grains with a circle representing dairy alongside the plate.

Total diet approach: Balance calories and eat nutrient rich foods

The major themes of the Dietary Guidelines are: Eat the right number of calories to achieve or maintain a healthy weight and when choosing those calories, go for foods that are rich in nutrients. Balance the food choices with a lifestyle of regular physical activity.

Kids are a target of the DG to help them get started on the right path of good nutrition and physical activity – balanced for growth and development without unnecessary weight gain.

Everyone is encouraged to eat more plant based foods which tend to be less overly processed and higher in nutrients and fiber. Keep in mind the plant based foods recommended are not refined grains with fats and sugars but fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts.

Good news – no food is off limits. The DG offers a flexible approach designed to meet your individual food preferences and lifestyle. If you are a vegan, vegetarian or on a modified diet, you can easily adhere to the basic principles of the guidelines.

But just as important as choosing nutrient rich foods are keeping portion sizes within check. Eating too much is what causes most people to gain weight. Check out the for recommended portion sizes.

Eat more of these foods

It is no surprise the DG advisory committee, made up of a prestigious group of nutrition scientists, continues to recommend fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, lean meat, omega rich seafood (8 ounces/week), nuts, beans and healthy fats.

Eating more plant foods is an overarching recommendation to help consumers move the meat off the center of the plate and enjoy a diet with more veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts and whole grains.

The typical American diet contains too many calories and not enough nutrients. Following the advice of the DG will help fill in the nutrient gaps. Fiber, potassium, calcium, and vitamin D are called out as nutrients of concern because most people fall short in meeting these nutrient needs.

New recommendation: Kids ages 4-8 need 2.5 servings of dairy per day, up from 2 servings.

New recommendation: Protein is the name of the meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, beans, tofu, peas, nuts and seeds group.

Eat less of these foods

Americans should eat less refined grains, sugar, salt (sodium), trans fats, cholesterol and saturated fats. The guidelines suggest avoiding SoFAS – which has nothing to do with a couch other than maybe sitting on it a little less – but is the new acronym for eating less solid fats and added sugars.

Examples of solid fats include butter, lard, hydrogenated oils, animal fats and coconut oil. Added sugars include all kinds of sweeteners from sucrose to agave. Cutting sweetened beverages from soda, sweet tea, punch, and juice drinks is one of the simplest ways to trim sugar calories. It is estimated that Americans get 22 percent of calories from sweetened beverages.

Eat less overly processed foods and refined grains, especially those with added sugars and solid fats. Overly processed foods are singled out because they tend to contain higher amounts of sodium, added sugars and solid fats like those found in cakes, cookies, pastries, crackers and more.

Hold the salt

Sodium has been the target of many experts who say we consume way too much salt and sodium which is a risk factor for chronic diseases like hypertension (high blood pressure). The DG recommends that people over 51, African-Americans and anyone with high blood pressure reduce their intake of sodium to 1500 mg/day. Everyone else is encouraged to limit sodium intake to 2300 mg/day.

Follow the advice of the DG, read labels in search of 'sodium' compounds, eat less highly processed foods and more plant based foods and your sodium intake will be reduced naturally. The majority of sodium in our diets comes from processed foods, not the salt shaker. Biggest culprits are canned foods, soups, salted snacks, processed foods, frozen dinners, cured meats and salt based spices. Choosing a diet that includes fewer processed foods will help slash sodium intake. Food manufacturers are also committed to lowering sodium in their foods.

A new plate icon helps consumers make healthy food choices

Making healthier decisions will be easy if you use the simple plate method to make sure half your plate is covered with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with grains (at least half of them whole grains), and the last quarter with lean protein (animal sources or plant proteins from nuts, legumes, tofu). Complement the plate with a source of fat free or low fat dairy.