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What Constitutes a Healthy Diet for All

What Constitutes A Healthy Diet for AllEvery day, Americans are bombarded with health and nutrition advice, much of it conflicting. It is no wonder we have trouble figuring out how to plan and eat a healthy diet.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published jointly every 5 years since 1980 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), provides a blueprint for healthy eating, based on scientifically proven concepts.

The Dietary Guidelines are intended to help Americans over 2 years of age plan a diet that promotes health and reduces the risk of chronic diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis) that have a clear connection to diet. These Guidelines also serve as the basis for federal food and nutrition programs such as Food Stamps, WIC, and public school breakfast and lunch menus.

Main Elements of a Healthy Diet for Weight Control

The main elements of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines are:

  • Prevent and/or reduce overweight and obesity through improved eating and physical activity behaviors.
  • Control total calorie intake to manage body weight. For people who are overweight or obese, this will mean consuming fewer calories from foods and beverages.
  • Increase physical activity and reduce time spent in sedentary behaviors.
  • Maintain appropriate calorie balance during each stage of life—childhood, adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy and breastfeeding, and older age.

Along with advice on weight control, the guidelines also address:

  • Foods and food components to reduce
  • Foods and nutrients to increase
  • Building healthy eating patterns

These elements are explained in detail in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and converted into specific nutritional advice. The latest version of the US Dietary Guidelines was published in 2005 and expands on these concepts. However the recommendations for the 2015 guidelines were recently published and the comment period for submissions is open until May 8th 2015.

The experts who author the Guidelines say that the overall message is:  to control calories, be more physically active and choose healthy foods.  A major step toward picking a better diet would be to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.

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