10 easy ways to meet dietary guidelines

The majority of Americans are overweight or are at risk for developing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis.

Here are the super-simplified, main take-home messages of the 2010 guidelines:

  • Balance your calories: Balance what you eat with what you burn (through just living and breathing and also through exercise) to maintain – or obtain – a healthy weight.
  • Eat more of these foods: Fruits and vegetables; whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy; a variety of protein-rich foods, such as poultry, tofu and lean meats and, particularly, seafood; and foods that provide potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D (which should be easy to get when you eat the foods just mentioned).
  • Eat less of these: Sodium (less than 2,300 milligrams per day for most Americans); saturated fat (less than 10 percent of calories); dietary cholesterol (less than 300 milligrams daily); trans fat; added sugars; refined grains; and alcohol (up to 1 drink per day for women, 2 for men).

The true challenge is actually implementing the dietary guidelines into your everyday life. Below are some of my tips and tricks to help you do so:

  1. Calculate how many calories you need. To balance what you take in with what you expend (read: maintain your current weight), it’s essential that you know just how many calories your body needs. Use this simple calculation:
    YOUR CURRENT WEIGHT X 12 = calories needed to maintain your weight
    [Note: This calculation works best for people who are fairly inactive. If you exercise regularly and you find that you’re starving – or losing more than 2 pounds a week after the first couple weeks – you may need to bump up calories a tad.]
  2. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. A simple way to eat more is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal.
  3. Simplify. Take a few shortcuts and add chopped fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables (frozen is an equally healthy choice and is cost-effective, especially in winter) and packaged low-fat dairy products (two food groups you should eat more of) to your shopping cart.
  4. Eat breakfast. Regular breakfast eaters get more good-for-you nutrients, including fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, zinc and iron and less dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. If dairy is a challenge, try a fat-free or low-fat yogurt. Try oatmeal for more whole grains. Make that oatmeal with milk and you’ll get some calcium. Knock off a serving of fruit by keeping frozen or dried fruit on hand and mixing it in.
  5. Plan and pack healthy snacks. Instead of giving in to unhealthy options in the office vending machine or candy in the checkout aisle of the grocery store, aim for your snack to deliver food and nutrients that you typically fall short on.
  6. Swap butter for oil. An easy way to immediately cut back on how much saturated fat you eat is to trade your solid fats (butter and lard) for liquid fat, or oils. Think beyond the bread basket: for example, try canola oil in place of butter when cooking and avocado in place of mayonnaise in sandwiches.
  7. Go meatless once a week. Skipping meat and poultry just one day a week can help you cut your saturated-fat intake significantly. And because we often trade meat and poultry for vegetarian protein sources (think: beans, soy, nuts), we’re naturally getting more good-for-you nutrients like fiber.
  8. Think differently about dessert. Shift your focus to what type of dessert you’re choosing. For example, a fruit-based dessert will tame your sweet tooth and deliver a serving of fruit.
  9. Cook fish on the day you grocery shop. Pick up some salmon on the day you do your weekly grocery shopping and cook it that night. If you have some canned chunk light tuna or canned sardines for lunch later in the week you’ll easily meet the weekly 8-ounce fish recommendation. Vary what you pick up each week (the Dietary Guidelines recommend increasing both the amount and variety of seafood you eat).
  10. Seek out packaged foods with less salt. It’s recommended that most Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day (sounds like a lot, but it’s actually the amount of sodium in just 1 teaspoon of table salt). Adults 51 years and over and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should limit their sodium even more to just 1,500 milligrams daily. On average, Americans currently consume 3,400 milligrams – most of it hidden in processed foods. When buying soups and other canned goods, look for those labeled “no salt added” or “low sodium ” (means no more than 140 mg per 100 grams, or about 336 mg per cup).

read article by Brierley Wright for EatingWell Magazine: 10 easy ways to meet the new Dietary Guidelines

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