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New Health Guidelines Stress Nutrition, Exercise

January 13, 2005

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The United States Government has issued new guidelines for nutrition, part of an effort to counter the trend toward most Americans being overweight and eating food that is mostly bad for them. The guidelines are issued every five years; and, according to a leading health official, most Americans are not following the previous guidelines anyway. Margo Wootan, nutrition director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that only 12 percent of Americans were following the 2000 guidelines.

The new guidelines, announced on January 12, stress the importance of fruits and vegetables and whole grains in the American diet and also put a heavy emphasis on regular exercise as a part of a healthy lifestyle.

In particular, according to outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, the guidelines are designed as a wake-up call for Americans, to urge them to take responsibility for their own actions:and eating habits. Bombarded with ads for unhealthy food, Americans need to take a stand and agree to live longer, through a combination of good food and good exercise.

For example, an average diet, under which an average American would consume 2,000 calories a day, the guidelines recommend daily consumption of the following:

  • Whole grains: 7-8 servings (1 slice bread; 1 oz. dry creral; 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal)
  • Fruits: 4-5 servings (6 oz. fruit juice; 1 medium fruit; 1/4 cup dried fruit)
  • Vegetables: 4-5 servings (1 cup raw leafy; 1/2 cup cooked; 6 oz. juice)
  • Dairy (low-fat or fat-free): 2-3 servings (8 oz. milk; 1 cup yogurt; 1 1/2 oz. cheese)
  • Meat, poultry, fish: 2 or fewer servings (3 oz.)
  • Nuts, seeds, beans: 4-5 servings (1/3 cup nuts; 2 Tbsp seeds; 1/3 cup beans)

As for sweets, fats, and oils, the guidelines change the equation to weekly servings and recommend the following:

  • Sweets: 5 servings a week (1 Tbsp sugar or jam)
  • Fats and oils: 2-3 servings a week (1 tsp margarine or vegetable oil; 2 Tbsp salad dressing)

If you routinely eat fewer calories, then you'll need to adjust your servings downward. On the other hand, someone eating 3,100 calories a day (probably an athlete in training) would need, for instance, 6 servings each of fruits and vegetables and 12-13 servings of whole grains, just to name three food groups.

Don't forget exercise, the guidelines urged. Everyone should get at least 30 minutes of exercise every single day. Children should get at least an hour of exercise. And this exercise should not be a substitute for eating right or as an excuse to eat unhealthful food, the government urged. This exercise can be as simple as brisk walking or can be as demanding as running or playing basketball or soccer or any number of other sports.

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