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The Food Guide Pyramid
The Food Guide Pyramid
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Dietary Guidelines for Americans
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Updated Dietary Guidelines For Americans
The revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans was launched in May 2000. Which guidelines have been updated and what are the rationale behind them?

The guidelines, which are revised every 5 years, for the first time emphasized the need for daily physical activity - at least 30 minutes for adults and 60 minutes for children. Following these recommendations can lower the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, colon cancer and diabetes. "Just a brisk 30-minute walk five times a week, for instance, can cut the chance of developing or dying from heart disease in half," President Clinton said in releasing the guidelines during his radio address. The number of overweight Americans increased from 25 percent to 33 percent between 1980 and 1991, according to government statistics.

A large number of Americans are overweight due to the abundance of food choices and burgeoning disposable incomes. Americans are eating more and exercising less because of their hectic schedules and growing reliance on modern conveniences like cars, computers, and remote controls. Less than 30% of Americans exercised regularly. Exercising regularly is defined as participation in any form of sports for 20 minutes at least 3 days per week.
Dietary Guidelines For Americans

Aim For Fitness...
  • Aim for a healthy weight.
  • Be physically active each day.
Build A Healthy Base...
  • Let the Pyramid guide your food choices.
  • Choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains.
  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Keep food safe to eat.
Choose Sensibly...
  • Choose a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat.
  • Choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars.
  • Choose and prepare foods with less salt.
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
Some of the key issues that the Dietary Guidelines are highlighting are:
1. Aim for a healthy weight.
There are many important health benefits for maintaining your weight within a healthy weight range. Being overweight increases your risk for high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, arthritis, and breathing problems.
  • The first step is to evaluate if your weight is within the healthy range using the Body Mass Index (BMI) chart.
  • Next assess other risks factors such as family history, age, sex, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and existing medical conditions. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to benefit from losing weight if you are overweight or obese.
  • If you determine that you need to lose weight, first aim to prevent further weight gain and then lose weight. Eat moderate amounts of food, as well as use the Food Guide Pyramid to guide you on how much and what to eat. Get regular exercise and identify behaviours that may contribute to your weight gain. If your children are also overweight, set good examples for them by practising good eating habits & doing regular physical activities together.
2. Be physically active each day.
  • Adults are encouraged to have at least 30 minutes (60 minutes for children) of moderate physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily. Moderate physical activity is defined as any activity that requires as much energy as walking 2 miles in 30 minutes.
3. Let the Pyramid guide your food choices
  • The Food Guide Pyramid provides guidelines for healthy eating. It specifies how much and what types of food to eat. Don't miss out on this important section.
  • Choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains. Whole grains such as whole wheat, oats, corn, and brown rice contain more fiber, vitamins & minerals compared to refined grains.
  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins & minerals and fiber for healthy bowel function. Most people do not eat enough fruits & vegetables.
4. Keep food safe to eat.
  • This section is new for the American Dietary Guidelines. Due to the increasing number of incidences, this recommendation has been included to reduce the risks of foodborne illness.
  • Refrigerate food immediately upon purchase and put food away after each meal particularly when the weather is hot.
5. Choose a sensible diet.
  • Choose foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Limit intake of high-fat meats and dairy products such as bacon, sausages & whole milk and cheese. Choose fish and lean poultry instead, and use vegetable oils rather than fats that are solid at room temperature.
  • Moderate sugar intake. Non-diet soft drinks, cakes, cookies, fruit drinks and sweet desserts are the primary sources of sugar in our diet.
  • Reduce your intake of salt and use spices and herbs to flavor foods. Also moderate your use of high sodium condiments and foods such as sauces, gravies, ketchup, pickles and preserved foods.
  • Use alcohol in moderation. No more than one drink daily for women ie. 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine or 1 oz. of vodka, whisky, etc. and two drinks or less daily for men.
A study by researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the City University of New York have examined the health effects of overall dietary patterns. The good old fashioned balanced diet is still sound advice. Among a group of more than 42,000 older American women, according to a study, those who ate even modest amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean meat were 31 percent less likely to die during a six-year study period compared to those who ate very little of these recommended foods. The righteous eaters also had death rates from cancer, heart disease, and stroke at least 30 percent below the slackers. "The larger point, clearly, is that they're finally starting to substantiate the health claims made in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans," said Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg, a Tufts University nutrition professor.

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