Dietary Guidelines (Lesson 1 Part B)

Mary May, Charles, Sharman J., Reames, Elizabeth S.

Weight Management Overview

Many Americans are overweight or obese, and the problem is increasing. The first Dietary Guideline addresses this problem and focuses on helping Americans prevent weight gain and maintain a healthy weight. Many Americans consume more calories than they need without meeting recommended nutrients. To meet nutrient needs:

  • Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and among the basic food groups while choosing foods that limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt and alcohol.
  • Meet recommended intakes within energy needs by adopting a balanced eating pattern, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan.

Body Fat Measures

Too much body fat causes health problems. Two ways to determine body fat are:

  • Body Mass Index (BMI)* - adults and children

adults – weight (kg)/height (meters2)

children – use growth grids that compare BMI with age and gender values

  • Waist circumference – adults

BMI is a more accurate way to tell how much fat a person has than is body weight alone; however, BMI may overestimate body fat in individuals who have muscular builds and underestimate in individuals who have lost muscle mass.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is the measure used now to assess weight status. BMI expresses the relationship (or ratio) of weight-to-height. The BMI is more highly correlated with body fat than any other indicator of height and weight. Individuals with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight. Individuals with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese. Remember, while some people may qualify as "overweight" because of a large muscle mass, they are not necessarily "over fat," regardless of BMI. Arnold Schwarzenegger is an example.

To view the BMI chart, Click Here .

The key recommendations for weight management are:

  • To maintain body weight in a healthy range, balance calories from foods and beverages with calories expended
  • To prevent gradual weight gain over time, make small decreases in food and beverage calories and increase physical activity.

Successful Weight Loss Strategies

Successful weight loss strategies depend on both sides of the energy balance scale: caloric intake and energy expenditure. Lifestyle change in diet and physical activity is the best first choice for weight loss. Successful weight management requires lifelong commitment to healthy eating and physical activity.

It is important to remember:

  • Calories do count!
  • Watch portion sizes!
  • Decrease added sugars, fats and alcohol.

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) Recommended Intakes for Macronutrients
The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) Recommended Intakes for Macronutrients (Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat) are:

  • Fat – 20 percent to 35 percent of total calories>
  • Carbohydrate – 45 percent to 65 percent of total calories
  • Protein – 10 percent to 35 percent of total calories (Most Americans get enough protein; protein was not addressed in the Dietary Guidelines.)

Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDR – Institute of Medicine)

Weight Management: Key Recommendations for Specific Population Groups

  • Those who need to lose weight. Aim for slow steady weight loss by decreasing calorie intake while maintaining an adequate nutrient intake and increasing physical activity..
  • Overweight children. Reduce the rate of body weight gain while allowing growth and development. Consult a healthcare provider before placing a child on a weight-reduction diet.
  • Pregnant women. Ensure appropriate weight gain as specified by healthcare provider.
  • Breastfeeding women. Moderate weight reduction is safe and does not compromise weight gain of nursing infant.
  • Overweight adults and children with chronic diseases and/or on medication. Consult a healthcare provider about weight loss strategies before starting a weight-reduction program to ensure appropriate management of other health conditions.

Weight Gain Prevention vs. Weight Loss

Losing weight is more challenging than preventing weight gain. Most adults gain weight slowly over time; this is called “creeping obesity.” There are some strategies that individuals should follow as a way to prevent excess weight gain. The strategies include: eating fewer calories, being more physically active and making wiser food choices.

Healthy Eating for Weight Management

Preventing weight gain is critical. Losing weight is more challenging than preventing weight gain. The behaviors required to lose weight and prevent weight gain are the same but, once the weight is gained, the extent of the behaviors required to lose weight is more challenging!

To prevent weight gain, it is important to reduce calorie intake 50 to 100 calories a day. In an effort to lose weight, calorie intake should be reduced by 500 calories a day.

To view the Estimated Calorie Requirements Table, Click Here.

Physical Activity Overview

Many Americans are inactive. In fact, 25 percent of Americans reported not participating in leisure time activities. Thirty-eight percent of 9 to 12 year olds watch more than 3 hours television per day. That is why it is so important to be physically active.

What exactly is physical activity? Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles resulting in energy expenditure. On the other hand, physical fitness is the ability to perform physical activity. In addition, physical activity enables one to meet physical demands of work and leisure comfortably. More important, it lowers the risk for chronic diseases and aids in managing mild to moderate depression and anxiety.

Types of Physical Activity and Benefits

  • Vigorous physical activity (jogging or other aerobic exercise) – increases cardiovascular and physical fitness
  • Resistance exercise (strength training such as weight lifting) – increases muscular strength and endurance and maintains or increases muscle mass
  • Weight-bearing exercise – helps build and maintain bone mass

Key Recommendations of Physical Activity

Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities to promote health, psychological well-being and a healthy body weight.

  • To reduce chronic disease risk in adulthood: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, above usual activity, at work or home on most days of the week.
  • For most people, greater health benefits can be obtained by engaging in physical activity of more vigorous intensity or longer duration.
  • To help manage body weight and prevent gradual body weight gain in adulthood: Engage in approximately 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week while not exceeding caloric intake requirements.
  • To sustain weight loss in adulthood: Participate in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while not exceeding caloric intake requirements. Some people may need to consult with a healthcare provider before participating in this level of activity.
  • Achieve physical fitness by including cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility and resistance exercise or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.

Key Recommendations for Special Populations

  • Children and adolescents: Engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.
  • Pregnant women: In the absence of medical or obstetric complications, incorporate 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. Avoid activities with a high risk of falling or abdominal trauma.
  • Breastfeeding women: Be aware that neither acute not regular exercise adversely affects the mother’s ability to breastfeed.
  • Older adults: Participate in regular physical activity to reduce functional declines associated with aging and to achieve the other benefits of physical activity identified for all adults.

Physical Activity for Weight Management Precautions

Consult physician before starting a vigorous exercise program, if you are:

  • Men over age 40
  • Women over age 50
  • Anyone with history of chronic diseases – heart disease, diabetes, etc.

Food Groups to Encourage Overview

Increased intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk products are likely to have important health benefits for most Americans.

  • Most people don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables. Consuming fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as: stroke, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, cancers (pharynx, larynx, lung, esophagus, stomach, colon-rectum). Fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring chemicals called phytochemicals. Phytochemicals act as antioxidants to prevent breakdown of cell membranes and prevent disease. Fruits and vegetables also contain vitamins and minerals that help prevent disease. Fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains – may reduce risk of coronary heart disease and other chronic diseases.

  • Milk and milk products can reduce risk of low bone mass throughout the life cycle. Consuming adequate milk products is especially important for children and adolescents who are building their peak bone mass.

  • Whole grains include the entire grain seed (kernel) - bran, germ and endosperm provide fiber and other nutrients. The first ingredient listed on products should be “whole” or “whole-grain.” You can’t tell a whole-grain product by its color. It’s important to read labels to find out if a product is whole grain.

Types of Whole Grains

* Refined grains are grains in which most of bran and some of germ removed nutrients lost during refining - dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, lignans, phytoestrogens, phenolic compounds and phytic acid.

* Enriched grains are those enriched with folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron.

Key Recommendations for the Food Groups to Encourage

  • Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs. Two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level.
  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables and other vegetables) several times a week.
  • Consume 3 or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products per 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 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.

Key Recommendations for Specific Population Groups

Children and adolescents. Consume whole-grain products often; at least half the grains should be whole grains. Children 2 to 8 years should consume 2 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products. Children 9 years of age and older should consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.

Food Groups to Encourage Serving Recommendations

Fruits and Vegetables

The number of recommended servings of fruits and vegetables from the USDA Food Guide based on 2,000 calories:

Fruits and vegetables – 9 servings (4 ½ cups)/day

Fruits – 2 cups (4 servings)

Vegetables – 2.5 cups (4 servings)

Dark green vegetables – 3 cups/week

Legumes (dry beans) – 2 cups/week

Starchy vegetables – 3 cups/week

Other vegetables – 6 ½ cups/week

* Note: A 2000-calorie diet is used for reference and discussion. The same number of calories is used on the Nutrition Facts label found on foods.

People who need fewer calories would need fewer servings and people on higher calorie levels would need more servings.

Example: 1200 calories – 2 ½ cups (5 servings)

3,200 calories – 6 ½ cups (13 servings)


The number of recommended servings of grain foods from the USDA Food Guide is:

Grain Group – 6 ounce-equivalents

Whole grains – 3 ounce-equivalents*

Other grains – 3 ounce-equivalents

*1 ounce-equivalent = 1 slice bread

1 cup dry cereal

½ cup cooked rice, pasta, cereal

*Three servings of whole grains may be difficult for younger children to achieve, and it is recommended that they increase whole grains in their diets as they grow.

Milk and Milk Products

Milk and milk products – 3 cups

Milk equivalents =

1 cup low-fat/fat free milk

1 ½ oz low-fat or fat-free natural cheese

2 oz low-fat or fat-free processed cheese

Lactose Intolerance: Choose lactose-free products or consume the enzyme lactase before eating milk products.

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2/28/2005 10:23:29 PM
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