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Dietary Guidelines

Dietary Guideline for Americans
The Food Guide Pyramid
Associations' Guidelines
Nutrient Intake Standards

Dietary Guideline for Americans

In 1980 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) issued a set of recommendations called the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Box 2-1). These recommendations, updated in 1985 and again in 1990 to reflect new scientific data, are directed at healthy to provide guidance in selecting a diet that will promote health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases for which there is clear evidence of dietary involvement.

BOX 2-1 1990 Dietary Guideline for Americans


Include these foods every day: fruits and vegetable; whole-grain and enriched breads and cereals; milk and milk products; meats, fish, and poultry, and eggs, dried, and beans; 3 to 5 serving of vegetables; 2 to 4 servings of fruit; 6 to 11 servings of grains; 2 to 3 servings of dairy products; 2 to 3 serving of meat, fish, poultry, beans, peas, eggs, and nuts.


Increase physical activity;reduce kcalories by eating fewer fatty foods and sweets and less sugar, and by using alcohol sparingly; lose weight gradually.


Substitute starches for fats and sugars; select whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, dried beans and peas, and nuts to increase fiber an starch intake.


Use less sugar, syrup, and honey; reduce concentrated sweets, like candy, soft drinks, cookies, and the like; select fresh fruits or fruits canned in light syrup or their own juices; read food labels (sucrose, glucose, dextrose, maltose, lactose, fructose, syrups, and honey are all sugar); eat sugar less often to reduce dental caries.


Limit overall fat to 30% or less of total kcalories, with no more than 10% from saturated fat and no more than 10% from polyunsaturated fat. Choose low-fat protein sources such as lean meats, fish, poultry, dried peas, and beans; use eggs and organ meats in moderation; limit intake of fats on and in foods; trim fats from meats; broil, bake or boil-don?t fry; read food labels for fat content.


Reduce salt in cooking; add little or no salt at the table; limit intake of salty foods like potato chips, pretzels, salted nuts, popcorn, condiments, cheese, pickled foods, and cured meats; read food labels for sodium or salt content, especially in processed and snack foods.


Limit consumption of alcoholic beverage (including wine, beer, liquors, and so on) to one or two drinks per day. Note: Use of alcoholic beverages during pregnancy can result in the development of birth defects and mental retardation(fetal alcohol syndrome).


The Food Guide Pyramid

The Food Guide Pyramid officially introduced in April 1992, serves two main purposes. It portrays the Dietary Guidelines in graphic form, and it replaces the Basic 4 Food Groups, which many of us learned in grade school, with a food intake standard that more accurately reflects contemporary nutrition knowledge.

Food Guide Pyramid- A Guide to Daily Food Choices
-Fats, Oils, and Sweets- use sparingly
-Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese- 2-3 servings
-Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts Group- 2-3 servings
-Fruit Group- 2-4 servings
-Vegetable Group- 3-5 servings
-Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta Group- 6-11 servings

Personalizing the Pyramid.

How many servings of each food group do I need each day?

The Food Guide Pyramid shows a range of servings for each major food group. The number of servings you need depends on how many kcalories you require. This in turn depends on your age, sex, size, activity level, and whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Note: your personal fat limit includes the fat in the foods you choose as well as any fat added during cooking or at the table.

Why was the pyramid shape chosen?

USDA studies showed that, of all of the geometric shapes tested, the pyramid best conveyed the concepts of proportionally, variety, and moderation.

Proportionality. The ideal diet is composed of large amounts of grains, fruits, and vegetables with smaller but necessary quantities of foods from the meat and dairy groups. Food groups that appear at the same level of the Pyramid, such as the fruit and vegetable groups, supply similar kinds of nutrients.

Variety. No one food or food group is superior to another. A variety of foods are needed for a healthy diet. Variety also minimizes exposure to natural toxins and/or chemical pesticides in foods.

Moderation. Sweets and fats should be consumed in moderation.

Are all serving sizes equal?

No. The amount that constitutes a serving varies from one food group to the next. Serving sizes also differs among the foods within each food group. To maximize the nutritional value of your diet, select whole-grain breads and cereals; use low-fat or nonfat dairy products; choose lean meats; consume at least one vitamin-C rich food each day and one dark green, leafy vegetable every other day.

Pyramid pitfalls. Does following the Food Guide Pyramid guarantee a healthy diet?

The Food Guide Pyramid can be a great meal planning aid for consumers, but it is not perfect. It makes no mention of the need for sufficient fluid, and it does not provide adequate information on controlling dietary fat intake. The lack of advice concerning appropriate fluid intake is a universal problem with food intake guidelines. This oversight is unfortunate because most people do not get enough water each day. The American Medical Association (AMA) believes strongly that inadequate/or inappropriate fluid intake is a significant contributor to poor health. For this reason the AMA recommends that Americans make a New Year's health resolution to consume 6 to 10 glasses of water per day.

The major ,pyramid pitfall, concerns its advice regarding dietary fat intake. First, like the Dietary Guidelines from which it was developed, the Pyramid recommends that fat constitute no more than 30% of total kcalorie intake. Most studies show, however, that for health benefits to be realized, a diet should derive only 20% to 25% of kcalories from fat. Second, the Pyramid specifies a low-fat diet but does not indicate which foods are leanest. For example, using the Food Guide Pyramid, you might choose a bran muffin for breakfast, an egg salad sandwich for lunch, and a grilled pork chop for dinner, without realizing that these choices are high in fat. The staff of Eating Well magazine put the Food Guide Pyramid to the test and found that less well-informed staffers had trouble picking the lean food alternatives. To help clarify which foods fit the ,lean, profile, you can use the Pyramid Food Choices chart in Appendix C and the information about fat content on food labels.

Pyramid Pointers.

The Food Guide Pyramid was designed to help healthy people age 2 years and older build a nutritious foundation diet. By restricting your intake of fats, oils, and sweets and combining the intake of fats, oils, and sweets and combining the Pyramid with a guideline for produce consumption such as the 5-A-Day Program, you can meet 100% of your nutritional needs. Eating right is easy to do! Start by eating plenty of breads, cereal, rice, pasta, fruits, and vegetables. Add two to three servings of low-fat dairy products and two to three servings of low-fat choices from the meat group.


Associations' Guidelines

The National 5-A-Day Program

The National Research Council Food and Nutrition Board?s 1989 report on diet and health recommends that people consume a variety of vegetables and fruits each day and include cruciferous vegetables to ensure that their diet provides ample fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The Council estimated that a minimum of five servings of produce a day are required to good health but noted that the average American eats only half that amount: approximately 2 ? servings of produce daily. To see whether a public education campaign could improve produce consumption, the state of California in 1990 launched the 5-A-Day Program specified classes of produce that people should eat. The success of California?s pilot program convinced health professional that all Americans could benefit from hearing the 5-A-Day message. Accordingly, a National 5-A-Day Program was launched in 1992.

American Heart Association

The American Heart Association's (AHA)dietary recommendations are aimed at controlling intake of both specific nutrients (fats and cholesterol) and whole foods (red meat, eggs) to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol consumption also is discussed. The AHA recommendations for persons over age 2 are:

For optimal health people also need to eliminate other cardiovascular disease risk factors like tobacco use, excess body weight, stress, and lack of exercise.

American Cancer Society

Because recent evidence indicates that diet modification may be one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of cancer, the American Cancer Society has published the following recommendations for healthier eating.


Nutrient Intake Standards

How do scientists determine the amounts of nutrients healthy people need?

Scientists have determined the nutrient needs of many species of animals and of humans by examining statistical relationships between nutrient intake and disease, conducting short- and long-term clinical studies, and studying cellular metabolism. The dietary recommendations of many nation, as well as those of the World Health Organization, are based on these research findings.

Who uses nutrient intake standards? Nutrient intake standards were developed to help professionals determine precise dietary needs of animals, including humans. These standards then were used as the basis for the food intake recommendations provided to consumers. In the United States, nutrition and health professionals-who plan school lunch programs, design food assistance programs, assess the nutritional content of processed foods, and evaluate the nutritional adequacy of the nation?s food supply-all rely on a nutrient intake standard known as the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA). Healthy diets also are planned using such guidelines as the Dietary Goals for the United States and the National Institute of Health (NIH) recommendations on fiber.


The federal government in 1941 convened a scientific committee to develop Recommended Dietary Allowances, or desirable nutrient intake levels, for healthy individuals. The committee established separate standards for men, women, infants, children, teenagers, young adults, and older adults because some nutrient requirements vary with age and gender. From age 11 on, separate RDA are given for males and females, reflecting the gender-linked changes in nutrient requirements that occur at puberty. In addition to providing for everyday needs, the RDA contains information about desired nutrient intake during special metabolic conditions such as pregnancy and lactation. The RDA are based on the best available scientific data. Because new discoveries are constantly being made, the tables are updated approximately every 5 to 10 years. The latest version, published in 1989 contains recommendations for consumption of energy (kcalories), protein, 13 vitamins, and 12 minerals. The RDA do not
give specific recommendations for carbohydrate or fat intake, on the assumption that people will consume adequate quantities of these nutrients in the process of meeting their energy needs.

NIH Recommendations for Fiber Intake

Prompted by mounting evidence that consuming greater amounts of insoluble as well as soluble fiber can reduce the incidence of colon cancer and decrease blood cholesterol levels, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued recommendations for fiber intake. Americans currently consume an average of 13 g of fiber per day. While acknowledging that individuals require varying amounts of fiber to maintain good gastrointestinal function, most experts agree that Americans should strive to consume between 20 and 35 g of fiber each day from a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Any program to increase dietary fiber intake should be undertaken gradually to prevent intestinal problems.