Nutrition Column – 2005 Dietary Guidelines Set the Standard for Good Health

With 23 key recommendations spread across nine interrelated focus areas, the newly released 2005 Dietary Guidelines are the most detailed and specific to date. Taken together, however, the message is clear: most Americans need to focus on eating fewer calories, being more active and making wiser food choices. Here is a distillation of the key recommendations:

– Consume adequate nutrients within calorie needs. The Dietary Guidelines have always included a food guide message, but this version makes the point that, when choosing a variety of foods, it’s important to maintain appropriate energy balance. This means limiting calorie intake, especially from added sugars, saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and alcoholic beverages – sources of calories that are very poor sources of essential nutrients.

– Control calorie intake to manage body weight. This guideline makes the point that, when it comes to weight control, calories do count. To maintain body weight within a healthy range, it’s important to balance calorie intake from foods and beverages with calories expended. Another recommendation: To prevent gradual weight gain over time, make small decreases in food and beverage calories and increase physical activity.

– Be physically active every day. Recognizing the importance of activity in weight management, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend even more activity than previous suggestions. Thirty minutes per day of moderately intense physical activity, above usual activity, is now considered baseline. To help manage body weight and prevent gradual, unhealthy body weight gain in adulthood, 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days is recommended. And to sustain weight loss in adulthood, up to 90 minutes of exercise a day may be needed.

– Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole-grains and nonfat or low-fat milk and milk products. For people consuming 2,000 calories per day, 2 cups of fruit, 2 1/2 cups of vegetables, 3 ounces of whole grains and the equivalent of 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk products are recommended daily. Recommended intakes are adjusted based on calorie needs.

– Choose fats wisely for good health. This set of recommendations encourages keeping total fat intake to 20 percent to 30 percent of calories, with most fats coming from foods rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids and low in saturated fat. It is also recommended that dietary cholesterol be kept to less than 300 milligrams per day and intake of trans-fatty acids be as low as possible.

– Choose carbohydrates wisely. To ensure adequate fiber, this set of recommendations focuses on choosing fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains often and limiting intake of foods and beverages with added sugars. Good oral hygiene and consuming sugar- and starch-containing foods and beverages less frequently also are recommended as ways to keep dental caries in check.

– Monitor sodium and potassium intake. Reducing salt intake is one of several -ways that people can lower their blood pressure. The vast majority of Americans consume too much salt, much of it from processed foods. This set of guidelines focuses on keeping sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day and consuming adequate potassium-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables.

– If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation. This guideline has basically remained unchanged for years. For adults who choose to drink, moderation means up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink is defined as 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

– Keep food safe to eat. To avoid microbial foodborne illness, the 2005 Guidelines recommend keeping hands and food contact surfaces clean, separating raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods, cooking foods to safe temperatures, chilling perishable foods promptly and avoiding potentially unsafe forms of foods.

Copies of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines report and supplementary materials are available at

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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension