The Dietary Guidelines provides a clear path to help Americans eat healthfully, informed by a critical, and transparent review of the scientific evidence on nutrition.
• A lifetime of healthy eating helps to prevent chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes.
• Healthy eating is one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce the onset of disease. The Dietary Guidelines recommendations can help you make informed choices about eating for you and your family.
• The path to improving health through nutrition is to follow a healthy eating pattern that’s right for you. Eating patterns are the combination of foods and drinks you eat over time. A healthy eating pattern is adaptable to a person’s taste preferences, traditions, culture and budget.
• A healthy eating pattern includes:
— A variety of vegetables: Dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy and other vegetables
— Fruits, especially whole fruit
— Grains, at least half of which are whole grain
— Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese and/or fortified soy beverages
— A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds
— Oils, including those from plants: canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower. Oils also are naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives and avocados.
• Healthy eating patterns limit added sugars. Less than 10 percent of your daily calories should come from added sugars. ChooseMyPlate.gov provides more information about added sugars, which are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those consumed as part of milk and fruits.
• Healthy eating patterns limit saturated and trans fats. Less than 10 percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil. Saturated fats should be replaced with unsaturated fats, such as canola or olive oil
• Healthy eating patterns limit sodium. Adults and children ages 14 years and over should limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day, and children younger than 14 years should consume even less. Use the Nutrition Facts label to check for sodium, especially in processed foods like pizza, pasta dishes, sauces and soups.
• Most Americans can benefit from making small shifts in their daily eating habits to improve their health over the long run. Small shifts in food choices — over the course of a week, a day, or even a meal — can make a difference in working toward a healthy eating pattern that works for you.
• Remember physical activity! Regular physical activity is one of the most important things individuals can do to improve their health. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week and should perform muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days each week. Children ages 6 to 17 years need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, including aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities.
• Everyone has a role – at home, schools, workplaces, communities, and food retail outlets – in encouraging easy, accessible, and affordable ways to support healthy choices.
More information is available through the Harlan County Extension Office.
Theresa Howard is the Harlan County extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.