Dietary Guidelines and Choose My Plate

Choose MyPlateEvery five years, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) update and publish a set of guidelines designed to help Americans improve their health by making wise dietary decisions.


The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 were released on January 31, 2011 and differ from those previously released in that they emphasize managing body weight through each of the life stages with focus on children because primary prevention of obesity begins during childhood.

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For the first time, research on eating patterns have been incorporated, including vegetarian and Mediterranean. The guidelines also acknowledge the environmental influences on food, beverage, and physical activity choices.


For a complete review of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 and to access helpful tools visit Information on the guidelines is also provided on the Let's Move website, the recent initiative launched by Michelle Obama.


Choose MyPlate


On June 2, 2011, the USDA released a new food group symbol called Choose MyPlate, which has replaced MyPyramid.


MyPlate is a simple visual cue to help Americans implement healthy eating habits by building a healthy plate. MyPlate is consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. To build a healthy plate during meal times, fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies and the other half with whole grains and a source of lean protein. Include a serving of a reduced-fat or fat-free dairy source. It is important to avoid adding extra fat to foods, such as sauces and gravies.


Refer to the Choose MyPlate website for serving sizes for each food group. To help control portion sizes use a smaller plate, bowl, and glass at meals.


Important Messages from the Dietary Guidelines and Choose MyPlate


Balance calories with physical activity to manage weight.

Americans can successfully achieve and maintain a healthy body weight by decreasing calories consumed and by increasing calories used through physical activity. Adults should get at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, such as brisk walking, or 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging or swimming laps, or a combination of the two types. Kids and teens should do an hour or more of moderate-intensity physical activity daily.


Enjoy the foods that you eat, but eat less.

Take time while eating to truly enjoy the meal. Eating meals too fast and not paying attention while you are eating may cause you to eat too many calories. Discover what triggers your appetite. Do you eat more when watching television or when you are stressed? Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues and only eat when you are actually hungry and stop eating when you have had enough.


Control portion sizes of foods and beverages.

To control portion sizes use a smaller plate, bowl, or glass. Portion out foods before starting to eat. Eat at home more often so you have better control over portion sizes. If you do eat out, order a smaller option or share a meal with a friend. You may choose to have half of the portion packaged up before starting to eat so that you will not be tempted to eat the entire portion.


Consume more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free/low-fat dairy products, and seafood.

Healthy foods, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, provide potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in the American diet. In addition to providing nutrients, these foods help keep calories in control and reduce the risk of diseases. Make these foods part of your meals and snacks daily.


Consume fewer foods with sodium (salt), saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains.

Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg), which is just over 1 teaspoon. Further reduce intake to 1,500 mg if you are 51 years of age or older, African Americans of any age, or if you have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. The 1,500 mg sodium recommendation applies to approximately half of the U.S. population, including children and adults. Many frozen meals, canned foods, soups, and breads contain a lot of sodium. Be aware that sometimes when salt is reduced sugar may be added. Read the Nutrition Facts Label and choose items that are labeled "low sodium," "reduced sodium," or "no added salt." Choose products that contain 140 mg or less of sodium per serving.


Replace saturated fatty acids with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are found in foods such as salmon, trout, avocados, olives, walnuts and vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, safflower, canola, olive and sunflower.


Keep trans fatty acid consumption low by limiting foods containing partially hydrogenated oils and by limiting other solid fats, such as lard and butter. Consume less than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day.


Reduce the intake of calories from added sugars. Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Consume alcohol in moderation, if at all--up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.