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New U.S. Dietary Guidelines: What Not to Eat

Guidelines Call for Less Salt, Fats, and Fast Food and More Seafood, Lowfat Dairy, and Fruits and Veggies
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

U.S. Dietary GuidelinesJan. 31, 2011 -- For the first time, new U.S. dietary guidelines do more than tell us what's good for us: They spell out how to avoid specific foods and lifestyle choices that make us fat and sick.

As a case in point, here's a phrase you'll be hearing a lot: Get off your SoFAS. In addition to getting more exercise, that means to avoid extra calories from Solid Fats and Added Sugars.

A third category of foods to avoid are refined grains. People who eat a lot of SoFAS also tend to eat a lot of these foods.

"We want to move away from our overreliance in the past on sugar and sodium and saturated fat," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a joint USDA/HHS news conference held to announce the new dietary guidelines.

But that's not all. The new guidelines come with an eye-popping pie chart of the American diet -- pointing out the foods from which Americans are getting most of their solid fats, added sugars, and refined grains.

A quick look at the pie charts suggest that one particular kind of pie -- pizza -- is a major source of the food types Americans are advised to avoid.

It's clear that Americans get too much sodium, and the new guidelines endorse cutting back to 1,500 mg per day for people over age 51, African-Americans, and people with high blood pressure. That's more than half of all Americans. The rest of us are advised to cut back to less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.

Most of this sodium comes from processed foods and not from our salt shakers. Vilsack said the USDA will pressure food companies to help us meet the new guidelines.

"This is obviously a significant reduction that’s being proposed and one that we hope that food processors will take into account," Vilsack said.

For the first time, the new dietary guidelines address the environmental factors -- such as neighborhoods crammed with fast food restaurants -- that are a major part of the obesity epidemic.

There's also some practical advice, including how to avoid breaking your diet when going to a party.

Every five years, the USDA and HHS update the dietary guidelines that form the basis of U.S. nutritional policy. The new 2010 guidelines, more than ever before, focus on scientific evidence as distilled from last summer's advice from an expert advisory panel.

The new dietary guidelines focus on two major themes:

  • watching calories to achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • tipping the balance of calorie intake: More calories from nutrition-rich foods, fewer calories from solid fats, sugars, and refined grains

There's also a focus on getting children to adopt healthy lifestyles.

"The focus on kids is critically important in stemming the tide of the obesity epidemic," says WebMD nutrition director Kathleen Zelman, RD. "Don't be overwhelmed by the changes your child needs. Just keep making small changes that you all can live with as a family. The guidelines should be your goal -- work toward them gradually.

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