New Food Pyramid to Emphasize Healthy Carbs

New Dietary Guidelines Offer 10 Steps to a Healthier You

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on August 30, 2004
From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 30, 2004 -- The new food pyramid will be out soon, and it's looking very lean.

The government has released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans -- as it does every five years -- to shape the nation's long-standing nutrition advisory, the food pyramid.

"The focus is very clear ... achieving a healthy weight and maintaining it," says Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director of the nutrition therapy department at The Cleveland Clinic and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

"The guidelines emphasize the type of calories you consume -- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lower-fat milk products -- and that makes a lot of sense," Moore tells WebMD. "What's near and dear to my heart, it's educating people on wise carb choices. Not all carbs are villains. Many are in fact very good."

Americans are asked to cut back on sugars, but mostly to help with weight control.

In fact, physical activity and weight control take prominent spots in this year's guidelines. For the first time, the body mass index (BMI) takes a front-and-center spot. So does physical activity.


The food guide's specific messages:

  1. To make sure you get all the nutrients and other healthful substances you need, choose the recommended numbers of daily servings from each of the five major food groups.
  2. Control calorie intake to manage body weight. Check your weight on WebMD's BMI Calculator. A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25.
  3. Be physically active every day. Adults need at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. Children need 60 minutes. Moderate physical activity is any activity that requires about as much energy as walking two miles in 30 minutes.
  4. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables of different kinds -- at least two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables each day. Certain fruits and vegetables provide more nutrients. Choose whole or cut-up fruits and vegetables rather than juices, which contain little or no fiber.
  5. Eating plenty of whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread or oatmeal, can help protect against many chronic diseases, and the fiber in these foods can help you feel full longer. Aim for at least six servings of grain products, including whole grain, per day. Older children or teens, adult men, or active women may need more.
  6. All fats are not created equal. Fats supply energy and essential fatty acids, and they help you absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Limit saturated fats because they increase the risk of heart disease. However, unsaturated fats do not raise cholesterol and thus are healthier. Choose from a variety of healthy fats, vegetable oils, fish, and dairy products.
  7. Keep saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories and total fat intake to no more than 30% of calories. This will also help you keep the amount of cholesterol you eat each day to less than 300 mg. Choose from low-fat and lean foods to help cut back on saturated fat.
  8. Limit daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg to reduce the chance of developing high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure and people at higher risk of developing high blood pressure, such as blacks and older adults, may need to cut back even more.
  9. Limit foods containing added sugars, which provide extra calories but few vitamins and minerals. Watch out for foods that have added sugars in them.
  10. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. This means one drink per day for women and two for men. One drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. Drinking more than this can raise the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and certain types of cancer.

These recommendations will be prepared as reports for the secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. When approved, they will be used to update the food pyramid.

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SOURCES: Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director of the nutrition therapy department, The Cleveland Clinic; spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association.

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