WEDNESDAY, Jan. 12, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Americans need to consume fewer calories and exercise more to maintain a healthy weight, according to new dietary guidelines released Wednesday by the federal government.
"Let's face it. Every American is looking for a pill. It's not going to happen," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said at the Washington, D.C., news conference announcing the guidelines.
"If you want to look better, if you want to feel better, you lower your calorie intake, you lower your fat, your carbs, you eat more fruits and vegetables and more whole grains, and you exercise -- and that's as simple as it can be," he added.
Added Ann M . Veneman, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): "The new guidelines have additional science incorporated, but many of the recommendations are not significantly different than what's been recommended in the past. This was the first time we used an evidence-based approach to reviewing research."
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 is the sixth in a series of recommendations intended to keep Americans healthy and prevent disease. The guidelines are revised every five years. The familiar "food pyramid" that accompanies the guidelines is not yet available for the new recommendations.
Cathy Nonas, director of the diabetes and obesity programs at North General Hospital in New York City, said, "What they did was sharpen the message a little bit to make it more clear. They're really pushing fruits and vegetables."
The way the message is received and used by the public has greater urgency than ever, with two-thirds of Americans now overweight or obese and many people relatively sedentary.
The guidelines include some alterations intended to make it easier for Americans to follow them. In the new pyramid, cups and ounces will be used instead of portion sizes, for instance.
"This is an area where consumers are not sure what's going on," Eric Hentges, director of the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, said at the news conference. "Household measures of cups and ounces seemed to be the better communications tool, and that's where we're headed relative to portion control."
Neither Thompson nor Veneman criticized popular low-carb diets such as Atkins and South Beach.
"We don't want to disparage or take away from any diet program because every one of those diet programs serves some people or serves a need, but if you want to get by without joining an organization, follow this diet," Thompson said. "This diet is probably the best out there."
Thompson also said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was reviewing its labeling process to make sure food labels were easy to understand and descriptive. He also said he felt the food industry would be responsive to the new guidelines.
The guidelines contain 41 key recommendations, 23 of them for the general public and 18 for certain populations such as children or older adults. Here are the main messages:
- To maintain a healthy body weight, balance calories taken in with calories expended.
- To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood, engage in a moderate-intensity physical activity at least 30 minutes a day for most of days of the week. More vigorous exercise for longer periods of time is better.
- To prevent gradual weight gain in adulthood, engage in about 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity on most days of the week while keeping calories constant.
- To maintain weight loss in adulthood, do 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while keeping calories constant.
- Limit intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt and alcohol.
- For a 2,000-calorie diet, eat two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables each day.
- Eat three or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products each day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half the grains should come from whole grains.
- Consume three cups a day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.
- Consume less than 10 percent of total calories from saturated fatty acids and less than 300 milligrams a day of cholesterol. Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible.
- Keep total fat intake between 20 percent and 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils.
- Eat lean, low-fat or fat-free meat, poultry, dry beans, and milk or milk products.
- Consume less than 2,300 milligrams -- about one teaspoon of salt -- of sodium per day.
- Increase potassium intake with fruits and vegetables.
- Limit alcoholic beverages to one drink a day if you are a woman, up to two drinks a day for men. Some individuals, including pregnant women, should not drink alcohol at all.
The U.S. government has more on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.