USDA Announces 2010 Dietary Guidelines. (Yes, we know its January 2011)

The USDA is announcing today, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. A bit overdue, once every 5 years the Department of Agriculture modifies its recommendations based on new scientific evidence (and heavy lobbying too). It would seem that the Department of Health and Human Services should be charged with this matter, not the same body that want to promote the sales of as much food as possible.

Unfortunately in the past, the advice has been confusing, to say the least. Will 2010′s advice be any better?

From a quick glance, we liked the fact that the first section is advice on STUFF TO REDUCE from our diet.

You can watch live here

Main messages:


• Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children, and the majority of adults.

• Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

• Consume less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol.

• Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats.

• Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars. • Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars, and sodium.

• If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age.


Individuals should meet the following recommendations as part of a healthy eating pattern while staying within their calorie needs.

• Increase vegetable and fruit intake.

• Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green and red and orange vegetables and beans and peas.

• Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains.

• Increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages.6

• Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.

• Increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry.

• Replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories and/or are sources of oils.

• Use oils to replace solid fats where possible.

• Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products.


The USDA explicitly said to drink water and not sugary drinks.

The USDA gave a clearly graspable amount for fruit and veg consumption – half a plate.

The USDA said that over 50% of the population should reduce sodium to 1500mg.

WHAT THE USDA could have said and done:

Of the four people fielding questions onstage, not one was a dietitian. Hmn, aren’t RD’s the ones who know best about nutrition. Maybe in 2015?

The USDA really needs to shorten the documents. If Michale Pollan said it in 7 words, and Marion Nestle in 3 sentences, why does the USDA needs pages and pages of documentation to tell us what to eat?

Too much focus on exercise. Yes, it’s important, but the percentage of time spent on this is infinitely higher than on saying don’t eat junk food.

The advice could have been more specific. Instead of “eat less solid fats”, how about – “eat less meat and cheese, and eating more beans and nuts for protein”?

And if the USDA could have announced that it would put its weight behind a change in subsidies from soy and corn to fresh fruits and vegetables…

Bottom line:

The USDA 2010 guidelines improved from those of 2005. They bumped up from a D+ to C-. They still need brevity, specific food advice, and less lobbying fingerprints.

Get Fooducated: iPhone App RSS Subscription or Email Subscription

Follow us on twitter: on facebook:

  • Mike Lieberman

    Why is this being announced so late? What’s up with that?

  • Heather

    They have to call it “solid fat” because the meat packers and dairy farmers of American would sue the pants off them.

  • Foodie, Formerly Fat

    Nice summary. I agree with Michael Pollan, “Eat food, not to much, mostly plants.”

    But, on some level I appreciate what they are trying to do. To tell an individual who isn’t following ANY of these guidelines (like many Americans) to radically change everything they are doing will result in absolutely nothing getting accomplished. Giving people incremental changes to work towards can be helpful.

    That said, I agree with you that people need to have more concrete suggestions like “eat beans and nuts for protein and less meat”. However, it also matters how those beans and nuts are consumed.

    A huge part of the problem is that there has been a remarkable decrease in people knowing how to prepare foods for themselves at home. Sodium content WILL be reduced if you are eating food that you’ve cooked from scratch. I’d like to see the government give monetary incentives to supermarkets for offering basic cooking classes and public school’s subsidies for adding meaningful home-ec. classes. People need to feel comfortable in their own kitchens before most of these guidelines can be truly meaningful.

  • Andrea

    It’s an improvement. I guess that Vitamin Water and other similar products qualify under “Drink water instead of sugary drinks”, or the soft drink industry would be pretty pissed. Also, ditto what Heather said.

  • Teresa

    wow – re fruits veggies and water – less salt – isn’t that what we’ve been hearing the past 20 or so years… And yes, if we all stated cooking at home more often, these things would be a lot easier to accomplish and a lot cheaper for the consumer and we’d all probably lose some weight and feel better lol imagine that :)

  • Shelley Rael

    Yes, no RD on the panel, but we relay the messages and give more clarity and definition to what all this means.

    “More” and “less” have different meanings for everyone. We help clarify the quantities and foods to go with the nutrients.

    Yes, maybe next 2015 (or 2016)?

  • Nancy-The Frugal Dietitian

    Agree Shelley!! People are listening too much to unqualified “nutritionists”.

  • Nancy-The Frugal Dietitian
  • Carolyn

    Let me first say I’m glad they are finally looking at all the research suggesting the dangers of excessive sugar and sodium consumption. That having been said, many of the health experts that have been griping about the overprocessed American diet and urging these exact changes for years have also been skeptical of the time-honored (but increasingly, evidence-undermined) “lipid hypothesis” blaming fats for the many ills of society.

    Thankfully, we’ve come to recognize the value of Omega-3s and monounsaturated fats, but I’ve read about more research into the subject of saturated fats and it sounds like either they’re really gotten an undeserved bad rap or else certain kinds (namely, dairy, and especially tropical fats like palm or coconut) don’t seem to have the same effects which maybe can be tied to fats from beef and other animal sources.

    I’m a cautious person and not making any drastic changes yet-I’d like to see even more info confirming this before I stop counting entirely–but I am finding that a bit more fat in my diet from coconut and dairy is curbing my hunger better and helping me lose weight. Granted, this is anecdotal, but it is consistent with what some doctors/researchers are starting to think.

    I do think anyone on this site ought to look up the recent article comparing the views of 4 doctors on fat. It is actually what made me first take notice of Fooducate.

  • Carolyn

    That’s the article. Really very interesting!

  • elisabeth

    The “water and not sugary drinks” disappoints me a bit — there is real health value in tea and (surprising to me) coffee, and these drinks also supply interesting tastes, which, nice as water can be, isn’t available from plain water. When I decided to stop drinking a soda with lunch, switching to tea I made myself in my office made the transition not only possible but painless!