New U.S. Diet Guidelines: What Not to Eat

For First Time, Help Avoiding Bad Foods Added to Help Eating Good Foods

By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 31, 2011 -- For the first time, new U.S. dietary guidelines do more than tell us what's good for us: They spell out how to avoid specific foods and lifestyle choices that make us fat and sick.

As a case in point, here's a phrase you'll be hearing a lot: Get off your SoFAS. In addition to getting more exercise, that means to avoid extra calories from Solid Fats and Added Sugars.

But that's not all. The new guidelines come with an eye-popping list of the foods from which Americans are getting most of their calories. And for the first time, they address the environmental factors -- such as neighborhoods crammed with fast-food restaurants -- that are a major part of the obesity epidemic.

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) update the dietary guidelines that form the basis of U.S. nutritional policy. The new 2010 guidelines, more than ever before, focus on scientific evidence as distilled into last summer's advice from an expert advisory panel.

The new dietary guidelines focus on two major themes:

  • Watching calories to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Tipping the balance of calorie intake: More calories from nutrition-rich foods, fewer calories from solid fats, sugars, and refined grains.

There's also a focus on getting children to adopt healthy lifestyles.

"The focus on kids is critically important in stemming the tide of the obesity epidemic," says WebMD nutrition director Kathleen Zelman, RD. "Don't be overwhelmed by the changes your child needs. Just keep making small changes that you all can live with as a family. The guidelines should be your goal -- work toward them gradually.

New Dietary Guidelines

So what should the new American diet look like? The new guidelines suggest:

  • Eat more seafood -- at least 8 ounces a week.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Substitute healthy oils for solid fats (such as margarine).
  • Avoid fast foods.
  • Exercise more.
  • Read food labels.
  • Substitute whole grains for refined grains.
  • Eat more beans and peas.
  • Get plenty of fiber, potassium, and vitamin D.
  • Eat/drink more nonfat or low-fat dairy products.
  • Replace high-fat meats with lean meats.
  • For some Americans, drink less alcohol.
  • Get off your SoFAS.

For now, the hard-to-understand food pyramid stays. But look for changes this spring, when the USDA and HHS plan a massive campaign to sell the new dietary guidelines to all Americans.

"We know what to eat," Zelman says. "But the new dietary guidelines will help consumers understand how to substitute healthier foods for less healthy foods and to put together more nutrient-rich meals and snacks."


Diet-Wrecking Foods: Smoothies, Lattes, Popcorn, and More in Pictures See Slideshow

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

SOURCES: Kathleen Zelman, RD, nutrition director, WebMD.USDA and HHS, 2010 Dietary Guidelines, released Jan. 31, 2011.

©2011 WebMD, LLC. All Rights Reserved.