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What Americans want most of all, Thompson acknowledges, is a pill that will make their fat disappear.

"Every American is looking for the National Institutes of Health to come up with that pill. It is not going to happen," Thompson said. "Do you want to look better? Yes. Do you want to feel better? Yes. So you lower your fats, your carbs; you eat more fruits and vegetables, and you exercise. That is not too hard."

The time to start? Right now.

"Tonight, everybody just eat half your dessert and then walk around the block," Thomson said. "If you watch TV, get down and do 10 pushups. Later, you'll find you can do 20. It is not the pill. There is not going to be a pill. There is a lot of information in these guidelines, but it comes down to eat your fruits and vegetables, lower your calorie intake, and exercise."

New Diet Guidelines: A Recipe for Weight Loss and Health

It's not just hype. The new guidelines really do represent the government's best, science-based efforts. They tell us nearly all we need to know about staying healthy, avoiding weight gain, and losing excess weight.

Here's an overview. A handy printout-friendly consumer summary -- as well as the entire Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 -- can be found on the HHS web site.

The guidelines are based on a person needing 2,000 calories a day. To find out how many calories you burn each day, use the WebMD Metabolism Calculator.

Here are the basic recommendations:

1. Learn how to read food labels:

  • Pay close attention to how many servings you're eating
  • Check the calories in each serving
  • Check the "% Daily Value" of each ingredient

2. To get your daily calorie allotment, eat good foods. Don't focus on just one kind of food, or consistently avoid any nutritious kind of food. Foods, which should be limited, include:

  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Cholesterol
  • Added sugars
  • Alcohol. If you do use alcohol, limit consumption of these "empty" calories to one daily drink for women, and no more than two daily drinks for men. A drink is one 12-ounce beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or one drink of 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. Empty calories are those foods that add little, if any, nutritional value to your diet; they can leave you hungry.

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