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There is substantial and expanding evidence linking diet and health. Atherosclerosis,
hypertension, diabetes, digestive disorders, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancers and
osteoporosis are the diseases considered to be most affected by diet. Eating a healthy diet,
low in fat, high in fiber, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, helps to lower cancer risk. This
diet may also reduce the risk of heart disease. Poor diet and physical inactivity are the most
important factors contributing to overweight and obesity. Thus, the importance of dietary
guidelines that provide concrete action steps to help people improve their overall health and
prevent maladies is increasingly recognized.
Guidelines should address two groups of people: those unable to acquire adequate food to
meet their needs and those who consume less than optimal intake of certain nutrients even
though they have adequate resources for a healthy diet. They are meant to help the first group
maximize the nutritional content of their meals, while helping the second group to choose a
healthy, nutritionally adequate diet.
Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
evaluate the adequacy of your own diet to maintain overall health and prevent dietrelated diseases
determine what foods you should avoid or reduce, and what foods you should
consume more.
General Guidelines
Dietary guidelines are meant to provide science-based advice to promote health and reduce
risk for chronic diseases through diet and physical activity. A basic premise is that nutrient
needs should be met primarily through consuming foods, which can provide an array of
nutrients and other health-promoting compounds. In certain cases, fortified foods and dietary
supplements may be useful in providing one or more nutrients that otherwise might be
consumed in less than recommended amounts.
Specific guidelines for individuals and countries will depend on the current health situation
and dietary habits. However, some general guidelines have been formulated and are
enumerated below:
 Choose and prepare foods with little salt (below 2,400 mg or 1 ¼ teaspoon per day). At
the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
 Increase intake and eat a variety of vegetables and fruits equaling five servings per
 Eat a variety of grains to equal six servings per day. Consume at least half of all grains
as whole grains.
 Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs,
beans and peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds. Increase the amount and
variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry.
Eat fish at least two times each week, preferably fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.
Limit calorie intake to the amount needed to attain and maintain a healthy weight for
adults, and for appropriate weight gain in children and adolescents. Enjoy your food,
but avoid oversized portions.
 Consume foods from all food groups in nutrient-dense forms and in recommended
 Increase fiber to 20-30 grams/day with an upper limit of 35 grams.
Reduce intake of added sugars. (Drink water instead of sugary drinks.)
 Limit foods high in saturated fat, trans-fat and cholesterol (less than 300 mg
cholesterol per day). Reduce intake of solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans
fatty acids). Choose reduced-fat dairy products, legumes, skinless poultry and lean
 Limit high calorie, low-nutrition foods like soft drinks and candy.
 Balance the food you eat with physical activity – maintain or improve your weight.
 If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation - no more than one drink
per day for women and no more than two drinks for men.
To meet the guidelines, recommendations for food preparation are also specified. To
control saturated fatty acids and dietary cholesterol, for example, the following tips are given:
Use cooking methods that require little or no fat – boil, broil, bake, roast, poach,
steam, sauté, stir-fry or microwave.
Trim off all the fat before cooking meat. Drain off fat after browning. Drain or skim off
fat from cooked meats before using juices in stews, soups, gravies, etc. Chill soups and
stews after cooking so you can remove the hardened fat from the top.
Remove the skin and fat under the skin from poultry pieces before cooking. If you are
roasting a whole chicken or turkey, leave the skin on to keep the bird from getting too
dry while roasting. Then remove the skin before carving and serving the meat.
NCI. National Cancer Institute Dietary Guidelines.
Slavin, J. (2011). Dissecting the Dietary Guidelines. Food Technol. 65: 40-47.
Swientek, B. (2011). 2010 Dietary Guidelines target unhealthy Americans. Food
Technol. 65: 36-38.
U.S. Department of Agriculture – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010.