This morning, the eagerly-awaited 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released to help Americans eat better, become more active, enjoy better health and a healthier weight, and prevent the most common chronic diseases – heart disease, lung disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, cancer. These health issues decrease quality of life, yet are 80% preventable with proper food, physical activity, weight, and lifestyle (not smoking and alcohol limits).
Here is my take on the 2010 Guidelines – what they say and how to live them:
- Eat with the plate approach. Divide your plate into fourths. Make one half of your plate fruits and vegetables at lunch and dinner. Choose lean protein (fish, poultry, lean beef/pork cuts, beans/peas) and starches/whole grains to make up the other two one-fourth portions. The divided plate creates food variety, nutrient-richness, balance and appropriate (moderate) portions. No calorie or fat counting needed! The more color, the better.
- Avoid over-sized portions. Remember just 3 “portion-right” visuals: 1) a baseball = 1 cup – Eat vegetable and fruit portions at least the size of a baseball ; eat starches (potatoes, pasta, rice, corn) no bigger than a baseball; 2) a deck of cards = 3 oz lean protein; 3) a golf ball = 2 tablespoons – the maximum amount of total fat (oil, spreads, dressings) we should add to our foods daily. Choose healthy fats (liquid oils, soft tub spreads) rather than solid stick margarine, shortening, and foods with trans fats (French fries, doughnuts, many commercially prepared snacks, desserts, fast foods).
- Increase no-fat or low-fat milk. We need the Calcium, Vitamin D and eight other key nutrients that are concentrated in dairy foods (milk, cheese, yogurt). Choose dairy 2-3 times daily.
- Choose lean protein. Eat more seafood - at least twice weekly. Choose lean beef cuts, which concentrate large amounts of 8 key nutrients in just a 150-calorie, “right-size” 3 oz cooked portion (4 oz raw). No need to overeat protein. Beans, peas, nuts are alternative plant proteins.
- Good news! We do not need to eliminate any foods. Enjoy eating! Go for balance and quality. Select lower-fat options; minimize sugar, salt, and processed foods which tend to have more calories, fewer nutrients. Choose “real food,” or wholesome foods with maximum nutrients and fiber, less salt, sugar, fat, and processing.
- Exercise daily. Drink water instead of sugary beverages. Eat breakfast. Watch snacks. Be mindful of calories in/calories expended, to keep weight healthy, and prevent weight gain. Seek the help of a registered dietitian to help you understand how to do this, for your body size.
- Eat more nutrient-rich, fiber-containing whole grains. Choose 100% whole wheat bread and cereals, oatmeal, corn, popcorn, Kashi, reduced-sodium Triscuits.
- Cut salt in half or more. Eat less salt and high-sodium foods. Read and compare food labels, choosing lower- sodium soups, snacks, crackers, etc. Target levels: 2300 mg for healthy adults and children; 1500 mg for those 51 years old and older, African Americans, and those with or at risk of hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease…more than half of Americans. Why? Excess sodium hurts arteries, the heart, and blood pressure. Current intake daily for adults averages 3400 mg. Stick with fresh or frozen produce , dry beans and peas, unsalted nuts, and more natural (less processed) plant foods…no sodium exists in these fresh foods.
Want to implement these guidelines today? My latest book, The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009) offers you quick and easy solutions…realistic meals, divided plate menus, quality snacks, brand-named products to spare you time from label-reading. Find “how to” tips on every topic mentioned in the new Guidelines. Enjoy reading food tips instead of food labels. Book available at
Take even two of these steps this year, and you will find yourself healthier, at a better weight, enjoying fresh food more, and saving health dollars in 2011. That’s a lot of good news!