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Losing weight with the new Dietary Guidelines

Michelle Dudash, RD, is nationally recognized as an expert in teaching people how health and food can happily co-exist. Through her 18 years of food business experience as a Le Cordon Bleu certified chef having cooked at a five star rest...

The new dietary guidelines

Over time, the Food Guide Pyramid has evolved, and on January 31, 2011, the USDA declared the new nutritional laws of the land. With more than two-thirds of Americans overweight, the recommendations address a portly population. Uncle Sam may help you shed a few pounds if you follow these new Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Woman eating healthy meal

1Enjoy your food – but not too much

Keeping portion sizes in check seems like common sense, but a reminder every now and then never hurts. It's good news for dieters, since it isn't all about complete restriction, but portion control.

Here are a few visuals to help you eyeball your portions:

  • For starchy foods, stick to a serving the size of your fist.
  • The top part of your thumb represents a reasonable dollop of sauce or condiment.
  • A CD case compares well to an appropriately-sized pancake, waffle or slice of bread.
  • A meat serving can be the size of a deck of cards.

2Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables

The beauty of fruits and vegetables -- with little or no processing -- is that they offer few calories packed with important nutrients -- including fiber, which keeps you full and satisfied longer. If meat currently takes center stage on your plate, gradually increase the amount of vegetables while shrinking the meat serving. When making stir-fries, decrease the amount of protein and rice, and double the amount of vegetables. This will reduce the calories from too much rice and increase the portion size of the meal.

3Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk

The whole point of this milk recommendation is to decrease your intake of calories and saturated fat and encourage weight loss. If you currently drink three cups of whole milk per day, switching to non-fat milk will save a significant 180 calories daily. The amount of calcium, protein, vitamin D and riboflavin remains about the same. To ease the transition, switch gradually from whole to 2 percent to 1 percent, and finally to fat-free milk.

4Limit your sodium intake

Read the sodium information on labels of packaged/processed foods like soup, bread and frozen meals, and choose those with lower numbers. While sodium doesn't add fat, it contributes to water retention in many people, which equates to carrying around excess poundage. About half of the population should be lowering sodium even more to avoid health problems like stroke and high blood pressure. Food containing 140 milligrams sodium or less qualifies as low sodium. Fresh fruits and vegetables have very low amounts, and eating more of these should help you lower your sodium intake.

5Drink more water and FEWER sugary drinks

Many sugary drinks add empty calories without filling you up. Milk and 100 percent fruit juice contain sugar naturally, but they also provide a good nutrient return for your calorie investment. Most soda, fruity drinks, energy drinks and many coffee-shop drinks contain added sugar with few nutrients. Though most of us could benefit from drinking more water, it can get dull over time. More flavorful low-calorie options include club soda with sliced citrus and a splash of 100 percent fruit juice, unsweetened tea or water with cucumber slices and lime.

More diet guidelines and weight loss tips

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What the new Dietary Guidelines mean for you

The best diet tips for a new Y-O-U

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