"The new guidelines are easier to use," said Janine Freeman, an Extension Service nutritionist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences. "They stress an overall eating pattern rather than watching specific percentages of dietary fat or other nutrients."
The revised guidelines include achieving and maintaining:
- An overall healthy eating pattern. "The guidelines recommend we eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables," Freeman said, "and six or more servings of grain products per day." Meals should include fat-free and low-fat dairy products, legumes, poultry, lean meats and at least two servings of fish (especially fatty fish like salmon and tuna) per week.
- A healthy body weight. Use commonsense suggestions, such as don't eat too much or drink too much alcohol. Also, limit fat intake to less than 30 percent of your total calories, and limit high-sugar, nutrient-poor, calorie-dense foods. Exercise, too, on most days of the week.
- A desirable cholesterol level. Limit foods containing saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. Limit cholesterol to 300 milligrams per day unless you're at high risk. Then keep it to 200 milligrams per day.
- A normal blood pressure. Limit salt intake to less than 6 grams per day (2,400 milligrams of sodium). That's slightly more than 1 teaspoon a day.
Vitamin supplements still aren't recommended. "The guidelines also suggest caution following fad diets like high-protein," Freeman said.
The "Revised 2000 American Heart Association Dietary Guidelines" and the consumer booklet, "An Eating Plan for Healthy Americans," are available at www.americanheart.org/dietaryguidelines.
The consumer booklet is also at the local AHA office.
(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)