What Are Dietary Guidelines for Americans

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The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a collection of sensible suggestions first published by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services (USDA/HHS) in 1980, with five revised editions since then (1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005).

Comparing Guidelines

My personal favorite among the many editions of the Dietary Guidelines is the 2000 edition. Its greatest virtue is that it seemed to have been written by real people who actually liked food. You could see this right up front in the very first paragraph, which began: "Eating is one of life's greatest pleasures." Hallelujah!

Contrast that with the first sentence of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005: "The Dietary Guidelines for Americans [Dietary Guidelines], first published in 1980, provides science-based advice to promote health and reduce risk for chronic disease through diet and physical activity."

Alas, what you see is what you get: A frankly cranky, bare bones, chilly presentation of the facts. Where the section and chapter section titles in 2000 were nicely encouraging ("Aim for a healthy weight," "Build a Healthy Base," and so on) 2005's are plain clunky ("Weight Management," "Adequate Nutrients within Calorie Need," and the like).

Perhaps sensing a small disconnect between them (the people who wrote the Guidelines) and you (the person who's supposed to read them), the USDA/HHA team put its shoulders back to the wheel and its fingers back on the keyboard to create Finding Your Way to a Healthier You, a neat little brochure that summarizes the Guidelines for civilians. Well, one out of two ain't bad.

To read and/or download the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 and Finding Your Way to a Healthier You, click on www.health.gov/ dietaryguidelines, scroll to 2005 Edition and choose the appropriate listing.

To compare 2000 with 2005, scroll down to 2000 Editionon the same page and choose "Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans." To track the evolution of the guidelines, choose "Summary chart of guidelines, 1980-2000."

Prefer print? You can order a hard copy of the 2005 Guidelines (Stock Number 001-00004719-1) from the U.S. Government Printing Office either by phone (866-512-1800) or online at bookstore.gpo.gov. And, no, there's no "www" in that Net address.

As the first chapter of the 2005 edition explains, the Guidelines lay out food and lifestyle choices that promote good health, provide the energy for an active life, and may reduce the risk or severity of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease. These suggestions are organized as nine standalone chapters, but for convenience's sake — and because it seems logical — I've grouped them into three categories: "Controlling Your Weight," "Making Smart Food Choices," and "Keeping Food Safe to Eat."

From now on, when I refer you to a chapter — such as "check back in Chapter 8" — I'm talking about a chapter in Nutrition For Dummies, not in Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. Onward!

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