Your Road Map to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines

By Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D., "America's New Food Rules," May/June 2011

6 easy rules that could help you live a longer and healthier life.

3. Stop Eating Junk

The Dietary Guidelines say, "reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars" (or "SoFAS," as nutrition experts like to call them). Combined, solid fats and added sugars make up a staggering 35 percent of all our calories—and the top source of calories in the American diet is starchy desserts (cookies, cakes, pastries) where SoFAS are found together.

But what are solid fats and added sugars? Despite their cryptic name, solid fats are simply fats that are solid at room temperature (think: butter, stick margarine, shortening and lard). Packed with artery-clogging saturated fats, these foods contribute to heart disease, which now affects 37 percent of Americans. Added sugars are what their name implies—sugars added to food. Not just table sugar though—honey, molasses, agave and high-fructose corn syrup also count.

You can satisfy your sweet tooth—and help your heart and waistline—by eating naturally sweet foods like fresh and dried fruit. Plus, you’ll get vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. Replace solid fats with plant-based fats found in nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocados and liquid oils, such as canola and olive.

Salt is another ingredient often added to foods—especially processed ones like soup, crackers, chips—that Americans overconsume. Americans on average take in 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day. That’s a third more than the daily recommended limit of 2,300 mg (about 1 teaspoon salt) and more than double the 1,500 mg suggestion for adults age 51 and older and for anyone who is salt-sensitive (e.g., people who are African-American, those with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease)—about half the U.S. population. Cutting your sodium intake can help lower high blood pressure and also reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure.

One of the easiest ways to slash your sodium intake is to replace sodium-laden processed foods with fresh foods. Other tricks: look for "low sodium" or "no-salt-added" labels and rinse canned beans.

Related Link: Healthy Recipes to Satisfy Junk Food Cravings

Next: Make Way for Leaner Meats and Poultry and Vegetable Protein »

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