Skip to content

2010 Preliminary Dietary Guidelines

June 27, 2010

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently released its preliminary recommendations for the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans due for final publication by the end of this year. The original version was first published in 1980.

These guidelines are meant to serve as a general guide for the public about health and nutrition issues based on the most up-to-date scientific research. The purpose is to promote better health and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Congress mandates that these guidelines are reviewed, revised as needed, and released by the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) every five years. An advisory committee collects and reviews current research and develops a preliminary report which serves as the foundation for the final guidelines. After the advisory committee provides its report, there is a period of time allotted for public comment before the final version of the guidelines are published (this year until July 15 www.dietaryguidelines.com).

The newest report contains four major categories of focus. The first goal is to reduce the incidence and prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States by reducing overall calorie intake and increasing physical activity. The concerns are based on the large and increasing percentage of the American population that fall into the overweight or obese category with a related rise in chronic disease. Although calories are more than adequate for these individuals, many are also undernourished.

Another way to think about this guideline is for Americans to better balance calories coming in with calories expended by physical activity. It also means choosing nutrient-dense foods those with maximal nutritional value for the number of calories.

Another goal is to move Americans toward more plant-based foods (vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains). There is also a recommendation to include more seafood and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, while eating lesser (moderate) amounts of lean meat, poultry, and eggs.

With regard to "extras," the third goal is to significantly reduce the intake of added sugars and solid fats. These are components of food that appear to be adding unnecessary calories to the diets of many Americans, while providing minimal nutritional value. There is also a recommendation to reduce the intake of refined food products, especially those containing added sugar, solid fat, and/or sodium.

The report specifically mentions reducing the amount of dietary sodium even more than the previous Dietary Guidelines recommended. The new target is to consume less than 1500 mg sodium a day (as compared to the goal of 2300 mg noted in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines).

The fourth major goal is to meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (www.health.gov/PAGuidelines). These state that some physical activity is better than none, but that for most health outcomes, additional benefits occur though higher intensity, greater frequency, and/or longer duration of physical activity.

Both aerobic (endurance) and muscle-strengthening (resistance) activities are encouraged. For aerobic exercise, the baseline suggestion for children and teens is at least 60 minutes a day of moderate intensity activity, while for adults, it is at least 150 minutes a week. Brisk walking is an example of "moderate intensity." With regard to strength exercise, the goal is to take all the major muscles to fatigue, at least twice a week. Children and teens are also encouraged to participate in bone-strengthening activities at least three times a week. Older adults or persons with disabilities, should be as physically active as their abilities/conditions allow. It is advised that older adults include some activities to increase and maintain balance as well.

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines go into more detail than is included here. They also address safety issues, guidelines for women who are pregnant, and for people with disabilities or chronic disease.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report also strongly recommends that the USDA and HHS form additional committees, possibly through the Institute of Medicine, to develop an action plan for implementing the guidelines.

The Executive Summary of the report (again see www.dietaryguidelines.com) contains much more detailed information and many more specific recommendations that are worth taking the time to read. Examples include guidance for various ages, pregnancy, breastfeeding, people with specific medical conditions, and other segments of the population. It also goes into more detail about individual nutrients.

If each of us tries to follow the recommendations included in the Dietary Guidelines consistently making healthy food choices, getting adequate amounts of regular physical activity, limiting "extras," and better matching calorie intake with calorie expenditure individually and as a nation we can potentially lower the risk of illness and chronic disease (and potentially the associated costs), while improving quality of life.

Pamela Stuppy, MS, RD, LD, CSSD, is a registered, licensed dietitian with nutrition counseling offices in York, Maine, and Portsmouth. She is also the nutritionist for Phillips Exeter Academy and is teaching healthy cooking classes at Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School. Visit online at www.pamstuppynutrition.com.