March 2, 2011

Take First Steps to Follow New Dietary Guidelines

By Sarah L. Francis
Iowa State University Extension Scott County

The U.S. Department of Agriculture just released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These recommendations are based on current scientific evidence and are intended to promote health, lower the risk of chronic disease and decrease the incidence of overweight and obesity through better nutrition practices and physical activity. However, the guidelines won’t make a difference unless people follow them, said Sarah Francis, an Iowa State University assistant professor and ISU Extension nutrition specialist.

“The new recommendations emphasize calorie balance. You can follow the recommendations by working on three areas: balancing calories, eating greater amounts of healthful foods and eating smaller amounts of less healthful foods,” Francis said.

“The guidelines aren’t all that surprising – they’re basic guidelines for good health,” Francis said. “But making lifestyle changes can be a difficult process, because of all the factors that can influence it — like food preferences, access to environments that support healthy food choices and physical activity, and finances.”

Francis suggests taking the first step toward following the 2010 Dietary Guidelines by trying one or more of these six suggestions:

1. Enjoy your food, but eat less.
2. Avoid oversized portions.
3. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
4. Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) dairy products.
5. Choose lower sodium items by comparing sodium amounts in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals.
6. Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

“When trying to make lifestyle changes, it is best to focus on one or two changes at a time. This way you’re less likely to feel frustrated and more likely to maintain these healthful behaviors,” Francis said.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are intended for Americans age two and older, including those at increased risk of chronic disease. The guidelines provide 29 key recommendations — 23 for the general public and six additional recommendations for women and older adults.

Live Healthy Iowa

Join the Live Healthy Iowa 100-Day Challenge. This team-based weight loss and physical activity program helps Iowans make positive changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle. The 2011 program began in January. For more information or to register, visit Live Healthy Iowa is a partnership of the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Sports Foundation and Iowa State University Extension.

For more information on nutrition and health from ISU Extension, visit

For more information, contact Sarah L. Francis, Food Science and Human Nutrition, ISU Extension at 563-359-7577.