USDA releases new nutrition guidelines

Published 6:12 pm Thursday, February 3, 2011

Aiming to combat the growing obesity problem facing the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services have released the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010.

In addition to the guidelines, a “next generation Food Pyramid” will also be released in the coming months.

More than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight and obese, according to federal statistics.

The new guidelines inform the reader on six chapter topics including: the significance of the dietary guidelines, balancing calories to manage weight, foods and food components to reduce, foods and nutrients to increase, building healthy eating patterns, and helping Americans make healthy choices.

“Not a lot has changed in the guidelines, but it is important information that has changed that is recommended,” said Valorie Conner, regional extension agent of human diet nutrition and health.

Conner mentioned four significant updates the USDA has made to the guidelines.

“The first is less sodium (salt) in your diet, and right now most people get around 3,400 milligrams,” said Conner. “People without chronic disease should get 2,300 milligrams—about a teaspoon— and people with chronic diseases should get 1,500.”

Reducing sodium intake is going to pose a challenge because sodium is included in ready-to-eat food and can be found in natural foods, she said.

Drinking eight to 12 cups of water a day has always been recommended, but now it is recommended to focus on increasing that amount and drinking at least 12 cups, excluding flavored water and drinks.

“We really encourage the elderly to drink more fluids,” Conner said. “We prefer you to avoid sugary drinks, for example juices and sodas. Diet is OK, but water is always better.”

The biggest update is to balance calories and exercise to manage weight.

“Most people do not know that 3,500 calories is one pound, so if you’re eating food high in fat, with sugar or serving sizes that are too large, you’re going to gain weight,” Conner said. “Especially if you are taking in a lot of calories and not burning it off.”

The last update mentioned by Conner is to increase the intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

“Plant foods are fiber foods, and increasing fruits and vegetables will give you the major nutrients,” said Conner. “Back off of refined bread, and go to whole grain bread or oatmeal.”

A key part to being healthy and balancing what you take in is exercising, Conner said.

When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and balancing what you take in, she said, “no movement is really a movement.”

To learn more about the new dietary guidelines or Food Pyramid visit or visit the Chilton County Extension Office.