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Guidelines to get healthier

April 06, 2005|by Lynn Little

In January, the government released the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Based on mountains of scientific evidence and expert testimony, the official report runs more than 70 pages. However, its conclusions can be summed up in three simple concepts: Eat smarter. Eat less. Move more.

Do you want to look better? Do you want to feel better? Do you want to lose a few pounds - and reduce your risk of getting diabetes or having a heart attack? Do you want to have more energy and enthusiasm for daily life? If you want any, or all, of these things, the new guidelines are for you.

For anyone who wants to improve their health and maintain a healthy weight, this gold standard of nutrition advice focuses on three steps for success:

1. Make smart choices from every food group: Your body needs the right fuel for your hectic schedule. The best way to get what you need is to enjoy a variety of naturally nutrient-rich foods - packed with energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals - from all food groups.

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Where can you find naturally, nutrient-rich foods and drinks - power-packed with energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals?

Just look on the outside edges of your supermarket - fruits and veggies from the produce aisles, whole grains from the bakery, low-fat milk products from the dairy case, and lean proteins from the meat/fish/poultry department.

2. Get the most nutrition from your calories: Our basic problem is that we consume too many empty calorie foods and beverages high in sugar and/or fat, but low in nutrition. The key is to moderate, not eliminate. Watching portion sizes is an easy way to cut back, without cutting out.

You can make a big difference in your calorie intake by eating and drinking smaller portions and by having empty calorie items less often. Want to cut back on sugar? Limit your soft drink intake to one can a day and switch to water the rest of the time.

3. Find your balance between food and physical activity: Most of us take in more calories than we spend on daily physical activities. Our lives combine too much TV and computer time with too many chips and candy bars.

Finding a healthier balance means fitting more activity into your day. The minimum for good health is about 30 minutes of moderate activity per day. For a healthy body weight, you might need a longer time - maybe 60 minutes a day or more - of intense activities.

An active lifestyle is essential for good health and a healthy weight. However, there's no need for painful exercise or long, boring workouts. All it takes is a commitment to regular, enjoyable physical activity.

You can use the new Dietary Guidelines in setting nutrition and fitness goals.

What will you do for a healthier you?

- I will eat at least one fruit and one vegetable for my snacks every day.

- I will drink 12 ounces (one can) or less of regular soft drinks per day.

- I will walk at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

Following the straightforward, science-based advice in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 will be more successful than any fad diet or miracle weight loss supplement. This dietary advice isn't complicated, but it is effective. You don't have to meet all of the guidelines right away. If you gradually start eating smarter and moving more, you'll be healthier, happier and better able to do all the things you want to do.

For the complete edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, visit www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines on the Web.

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