How to Follow the Dietary Guidelines

The guidelines also include key recommendations with specific targets to help families make healthy shifts in their patterns to improve their health and quality of life.

Start by assessing family nutrition and physical activity patterns. Here are some recommendations for healthy eating patterns:

  1. Eat your vegetables (just like your mother told you). Choose vegetables that include a rainbow of colors, from dark green to red and orange.
  2. Eat fruits, especially whole fresh fruits.
  3. Eat healthy grains.  At least half should be whole grains (e.g., whole wheat, brown rice, oats, barley, quinoa).
  4. Got milk?  Drink/eat fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  5. Eat healthy protein foods. Protein intake should include a variety of sources (seafood, lean meats, eggs, milk/dairy, nuts and seeds).
  6. Include oils that occur naturally in plants (canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, sunflower, as well as oils in avocado, nuts, seeds and olives).
  7. Limit added sugars.  Less than 10% of total calories should come from added sugars. Generally this means less than 100-150 calories per day for most young children
  8. Limit fats, especially saturated and trans-fats. Similar to sugar, less than 10% of total calories should come from saturated fat. 
  9. Watch your salt intake. Older children and adults should consume less than 2300 mg of sodium per day; the amount of sodium in 1 teaspoon of salt.
  10. Be active. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans released in 2015, adults need 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week and muscle strengthening at least 2 days per week. Children ages 6-17 years old need at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity, including muscle and bone strengthening activities.

It is important to remember that making small shifts in patterns will make a difference. Make sure the eating and physical activity patterns work for you and your family.

Everyone should take part in supporting healthy, accessible and affordable eating and physical activity options. What happens at home is just as important as what happens at school, work and in your communities. Whether you build a garden in your own backyard or help build a community garden, you are participating in supporting these healthy choices.

Making these shifts in routines can help lead your family to an improved quality of life with reduced risk of chronic disease.