You know the statistics -more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the UnitedStates are overweight or obese. Those numbersare high enough to classify the situation as anepidemic. According to the U.S. Department ofAgriculture, most Americans need to trim theirwaistlines to reduce the risk of developing dietrelatedchronic diseases such as diabetes, strokeand osteoporosis.

 The USDA Dietary Guidelines provide basic information to guide individuals and families in making appropriate choices of healthier foods in the right portions while complementing those choices with physical activity. Issued and revised every five years, the guidelines are evidence-based nutritional guidance to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. 

Current guidelines focus on balancing calories with physical activity, consuming more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains. 

 Guideline highlights are: 

• Follow a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level that focuses on variety, nutrient density and amount. 

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

• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk. 

• Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and choose the foods with lower numbers. 

• Drink water instead of sugary drinks. 

 Other recommendations, while staying within an appropriate calorie range, include: 

• Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green and red and orange vegetables and beans and peas. 

• Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains. 

• Increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages. 

• Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. 

• Increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry. 

• Replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories and/or are sources of oils. 

• Use oils to replace solid fats where possible. 

• Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products. 

The USDA also suggests that healthy diet and physical activity should be a constant focus at all stages of life. Maintain appropriate calorie balance during childhood, adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy and breastfeeding, and older age. 

For additional information visit www.dietaryguidelines. gov or consult your local hospital for nutritional classes or workshops. 

Editor’s Note: this article was revised on January 19, 2016

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