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    A Guide to Help Us Stay Healthy

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Agriculture just published the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2015-2020. These guidelines are based on the most current medical and scientific knowledge.

    Although our society has less nutrient deficiencies and less infectious diseases than we did in the past, our rate of chronic diseases has increased. Many of these illnesses are related to lack of physical activity and a poor quality diet. About half of all Americans have at least one chronic disease that is related to poor diet. These diseases include:

    • Overweight
    • Obesity 
    • Type 2 diabetes 
    • Cardiovascular disease

    The purpose of these guidelines is to help families consume a healthy diet with adequate nutrients. In the past, the main focus was primarily food groups and nutrients. Now the new set of guidelines offers five comprehensive recommendations.

    Fresh vegetables

    1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan:

        A healthy eating pattern includes eating:
           • Fruits
           • Grains (make at least ½ whole grains)
           • A variety of vegetables: include dark green, orange, and red vegetables, legumes, and starchy vegetables
           • Fat- free or low fat dairy products
           • A variety of protein foods: seafood, lean meats and poultry, legumes, soy products, eggs and nuts
           • Oils

        A healthy eating pattern limits:
           • Saturated fats
           • Trans fats
           • Added sugar
           • Sodium

    Other recommendations:

        • Sugar: consume less than 10 percent of total calories per day. (50 grams is 10 percent for a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet)
        • Saturated fats: consume less than 10 percent of calories per day
        • Sodium: consume less than 2,300 milligrams per day
        • Alcohol: in moderation. Up to 1 drinks per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men


    2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount:

        Choose a variety of nutrient dense foods within calorie limits. Make sure your choices include foods from all the food groups.

    Nutrition wheel

    3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake:

    The recommended eating pattern must be low in added sugars, sodium and saturated fats. Cut back on foods and drinks high in these. Consuming a diet with a lot of sugar increases your risk for Type II diabetes, heart disease, and can lead to obesity.

    Teaspoon of sugar

    4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices:

    Replace less healthy choices with nutrient rich foods. Nutrient rich foods provide necessary nutrients with little or no added fat, sodium and sugar.


    Instead of sugar sweetened drinks

    Sugar sweetened drinks

    Try fresh fruit and vegetable juices

    Fresh juices

    5. Support healthy patterns for all:

    All of us have a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns. This applies to different settings such as the home, work and communities in general.  We can all play a role in order to achieve this goal.

    In addition to these recommendations from The Dietary Guidelines, Americans are advised to follow the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines encourage all ages to be more active. Any amount of physical activity has health benefits.

    Cartoon muscle lifting weights

    For children and adolescents ages 6-17 the guidelines recommend:

         • One hour or more of physical activity each day.


    The guidelines for adults suggest adults do one of the following:  

    • 150 minutes each week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity, like brisk walking or tennis; and
    • 75 minutes each week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, like jogging or swimming 


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