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Americans Get Diet Road Map to Health

New U.S. Diet Guidelines Based on Common Sense, Science

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.

3. To keep your weight the same, don't eat or drink more calories than you burn. Maintain a balance of calories -- what you eat to those you burn. To lose weight over time, eat a little less -- and exercise a little more -- every day.

4. Get regular exercise. It's good for your body and good for your mind:

  • Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
  • For maximum benefit, most people can get vigorous or longer-duration exercise.
  • To lose weight, get about 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise most days of the week. Don't offset this by eating more.
  • To keep weight off, get 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise most days. Examples include exercises such as walking briskly, swimming recreationally, or bicycling 5-9 mph on level terrain.

5. Recommended foods:

  • Get 2 cups of fruit every day
  • Get 2.5 cups of vegetables every day
  • Eat a variety of vegetables
  • Get 3 ounces or more of whole-grain foods every day
  • Get 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat dairy foods every day

6. Avoid fats:

  • Fewer than 10% of your calories should come from saturated fats.
  • Keep cholesterol consumption below 300 milligrams per day.
  • Avoid trans fats as much as you possibly can.
  • The fats you do eat should mostly come from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. Keep total fats between 20% to 35% of your total calories.

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