Balancing Calories To Manage Weight -The 2010 Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans

7 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

Yesterday, I posted a summary of the 2010 Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans. As I mentioned, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines consist of 5 chapters detailing recommendations based on scientific evidence for nutritional factors that are important for promoting health and lowering the risk of diet-related chronic disease.

Here are the general recommendations:

  • Balancing Calories to Manage Weight
  • Foods and Food Components to Reduce
  • Foods and Nutrients to Increase
  • Building Healthy Eating Patterns
  • Helping Americans Make Healthy Choices

Today, I will be summarizing the first recommendation, entitled "Balancing Calories to Manage Weight." The premise behind this recommendation is that although people cannot control the calories used up in normal body functions ("metabolic processes"), a person can control what they eat and drink, as well as how many calories they use in physical activity. The Dietary Guidelines encourage individuals to become more conscious and aware of how much and what they eat and what they do, "deliberately making better choices regarding what and how much they consume, and seeking ways to be more physically active."

The driving force behind the "Balancing Calories to Management Weight" recommendation is the current obesity epidemic, which demonstrates that many Americans are in "calorie imbalance." The following table depicts the current rise in obesity rates over the past 30+ years:

                                        early 1970's              Now
Children, ages 2-5              5%                           10%
Children, ages 6-11            4%                           20%
Children, ages 12-19          6%                          18%
Adults                                   15%                          34%

Although all of these statistics are compelling, I found the most disturbing statistics to be in children, ages 6-11, which increased 5-fold, and in children, ages 12-19, which tripled, since obesity brings with it increased health risks. Diseases that are associated with obesity include Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Increasingly, obese children have ben found to have high blood cholesterol and hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.

The Dietary Guidelines encourage all age groups - children, adolescents, adults and older adults - to strive to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Children and adolescents are encouraged to maintain calorie balance to support normal growth and development without promoting excess weight gain. Additional suggestions are made for women before becoming pregnant, during pregnancy, as well as for adults ages 65 and older. For children, adolescents and adults, the guidelines suggest using BMI ("Body Mass Index") as a tool to estimate a healthy weight range.

The Dietary Guidelines attribute the obesity epidemic in part to the environment in which Americans live, work, learn and play in. Not only have the foods available for consumption increased, but the greatest increase has been in added fats and oils, grains (grain based desserts such as cakes, cookies, donuts and pastries are the number one source of calories among American children, adolescents and adults), milk and milk products, and caloric sweeteners. In addition, portion sizes have increased. Further, the number of fast food restaurants has more than doubled since the 1970's, and the proportion of daily caloric intake from foods eaten away from home has increased. To compound this situation, transportation and technological advances have created more sedentary behaviors. 

The Dietary Guidelines recommends managing Calorie Balance through two components:

  • Calorie Balance through Food and Beverage Intake
  • Calorie Balance through Physical Activity

Here are more specific guidelines/recommendations for managing total Calorie Balance through Food and Beverage Intake:

  • Understand calorie needs (Appendix 6 provides estimated total calorie needs for weight maintenance based on age, gender and physical activity level)
  • Increase intake of whole grains, vegetables and fruits
  • Reduce intake of sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Monitor intake of 100% fruit juice for children and adolescents, especially those who are overweight or obese
  • Monitor calorie intake from alcoholic beverages for adults
  • Emphasize naturally occurring carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains, beans and peas, vegetables and fruits, especially those high in dietary fiber, while limiting refined grains and intake of foods with added sugars
  • Select non-fat, low-fat or lean choices in protein products (particularly when choosing some animal-based sources which are high in saturated fat)
  • Emphasize monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in seafood, nuts, seeds and oils

The Dietary Guidelines suggest following the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans  for helping to manage total Calorie Balance through Physical Activity. Here are a few general guidelines:

  • To achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, adults should do the equivalent of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week
  • If necessary, adults should increase their weekly minutes of aerobic physical activity gradually over time and decrease calorie intake to a point where they can achieve calorie balance and a healthy weight
  • For children and adolescents ages 6 years and older, 60 minutes or more of physical activity per day is recommended
  • Children 2 to 5 years old should play activity several times each day 

I have attempted to whittle down 12 pages of information to this single post, providing the highlights. I would encourage you to take a look at this chapter in full, especially Table 2.2 on page 12 of the report: Top Sources of Calories Among Americans Ages 2 Years and Older. I found this table especially telling of the American diet that has wreaked havoc on the health of Americans and our health care system.

Jeanette from Jeanette's Healthy Living


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