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To prevent disease, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products. The guidelines also emphasize:

These guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are updated every 5 years to promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases.

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Key recommendations for the general public include the following.1

Balancing calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
  • Prevent and/or reduce overweight and obesity through healthy eating and physical activity.
  • Control your total calorie intake to manage your weight. For people who are overweight or obese, this means eating fewer calories from foods and drinks.
  • Increase your physical activity, and reduce the time you are not moving.
  • Eat enough calories, but not too many, during each stage of life—childhood, adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy and breast-feeding, and older age.

Foods to increase

  • Make half your plate camera.gif fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits.
  • Eat different vegetables, especially dark-green, red, and orange vegetables and beans and peas.
  • Eat at least half of all grains as whole grains, replacing refined grains with whole grains.
  • Eat more fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages.
  • Eat different protein foods, such as seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
  • Replace some meat and poultry with seafood.
  • Replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are actionset.gif lower in solid fats and calories and/or are sources of oils.
  • Use oils to replace solid fats, like butter, where possible.
  • Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products.
  • For women who may become pregnant:
    • Eat foods that supply the type of iron that is more easily absorbed by the body. Examples are fish, poultry, and meat. And eat foods that are other sources of iron, such as lentils, beans, cereals, and grains.
    • Eat foods that help the body absorb iron, such as foods rich in vitamin C.
    • Get enough folic acid (from fortified foods and/or supplements).
  • For women who are pregnant or breast-feeding:
    • Eat 8 to 12 ounces of seafood a week. Vary the types of seafood you eat.
    • Avoid mercury in fish by limiting white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces a week and by not eating tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.
    • If you are pregnant, take an iron supplement as recommended by your doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 25, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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