Dietary Guidance

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Since the 1940s scientific bodies have met to discuss nutrition recommendations. Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) have been developed to provide nutrient allowances for the maintenance of good health. These guidelines are most useful to health professionals in planning and evaluating diets. For consumers, more general nutrition education tools have been developed. Food groups, meal plans, or exchange lists are examples of food guides available to help consumers plan and prepare more nutritious meals. These tools have evolved and generally try to meet the need for a simple nutrition education system that still provides the nutritional detail needed.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published food guides to help Americans choose a healthful diet for almost 100 years (1). A food guide is a conceptual framework for selecting the kinds and amounts of foods of various "S

types that together provide a nutritionally satisfactory diet. Food guides are not dietary standards (such as the Recommended Dietary Allowances or the Dietary

Guidelines for Americans) but are translations of these recommendations on nu- t?

trient intake into quantities of food that people should eat on a daily basis.

The first food guide was issued in 1916, the Basic Seven in the 1940s, and ^

the Basic Four in the 1950s. In the 1970s the focus of dietary recommendations |

shifted to concerns about dietary excesses. The release of the Dietary Goals by a U. S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs in 1977 was a turning point in that quantitative limits were set for the dietary intake of certain food components that were linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer (2). The Dietary Goals were followed in 1980 by the first edition of Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, jointly released

Dietary Guidelines

by USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) (3). The Dietary Guidelines are updated every five years and are currently being re-released (1995).

The USDA Food Guide Pyramid was developed to help people follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The pyramid graphic is designed to emphasize the importance of increased consumption of vegetables, fruits, and grain products for a healthful diet and decreased consumption of fats, sugars, and alcohol.

As reviewed by Truswell (4) there is almost complete agreement on the following six dietary recommendations:

1. Eat a nutritionally adequate diet composed of a variety of foods.

2. Eat less fat, particularly saturated fat.

3. Adjust energy intake for weight control; exercise.

4. Eat more foods containing complex carbohydrates and fiber.

5. Reduce salt intake.

6. Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.

Other recommendations on specific fats, sugars, cholesterol, and others vary among different dietary guidelines.

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