What Are the Seven Dietary Guidelines?

Woman Eating Salad

What are the seven dietary guidelines and how do they compare to the well known food pyramid?

Purpose of the Seven Dietary Guidelines

Like the food pyramid, the seven dietary guidelines are designed to help people learn how to eat a healthier diet. In fact, these guidelines, which were drawn up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, can be used to help determine whether or not a diet is healthy and balanced or not.

What Are the Seven Dietary Guidelines?

These seven dietary guidelines convey common sense steps to healthy eating.

Consume a Different Variety of Foods

Eating a variety of foods helps provide vitamins and minerals you need for good health. If you aren't sure what constitutes balance, or how much of which foods you should eat, Choose My Plate helps you know how much of what foods to eat based on your age, gender, height and weight along with tips for how to incorporate these various foods into your diet.

Physical Activity

Get regular exercise. The guidelines state physical activity should be in proportion to how much you eat. In other words, you have to exercise enough to burn the calories you eat, if you want to maintain your weight. You must burn more calories than you eat, if you want to lose weight.

Eat Grain Products, Vegetables, and Fruits

Whole foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains provide necessary vitamins, minerals and fiber. This guideline links back to guideline number one which recommends a variety of foods, but it is also important to remember that how much you eat of these foods depends on your current size, age, gender, weight and activity level.

Eat Foods Low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol

When it comes to dietary fat, not all fat is bad. However fats are calorie dense at nine calories per gram and even healthy fats should be eaten sensibly. Saturated fat, however, should be limited. The American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee advises that calories from saturated fat and cholesterol should be less than seven percent of total daily calories.

Moderation of Sugar

Sugar is not only high in calories, but it is also an ingredient in many foods that don't even taste sweet. Take a look at the ingredients listed on your salad dressing, cereals, gravy, etc., and see where sugar is listed. If it falls to number four or higher, sugar levels are usually moderate to low. If it is within the first three ingredients, check the label further.

Sugar goes by a number of names. Here are some of the more common terms for sugar to watch for when reading the ingredients on food labels:

  • Barley malt
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane juice
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Date sugar
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Diatase
  • Free flowing brown sugars
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Galactose
  • Glucose
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Lactose
  • Malt
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado or Barbados sugar
  • Panocha
  • Powdered sugar
  • Rice syrup
  • Sorbitol
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado sugar

Limit Salt and Sodium

Sodium is an element necessary for good health, but too much sodium puts the body's system out of balance. The American Heart Association recommends healthy Americans should have less than 2,300 mg. of salt daily

Limit Consumption of Alcohol

If alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation. It offers very little in nutrition but is packed with plenty of calories.

Common Sense Eating

Now you know the answer to: "What are the seven dietary guidelines," but the real question is, "Will you put them into practice?"

When you read through these seven dietary guidelines, they seem to offer a straight-forward dose of common sense. Perhaps in decades past that may have been the case, but in today's world of processed foods, fast foods and super sized portions, the conventional wisdom laid out in these guidelines isn't commonly practiced. This is evident in the rapid rise of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other health conditions in America. So when it comes to the Seven Dietary Guidelines, perhaps common sense isn't common after all. Yet when compared to the food pyramid the two complement each other.


What Are the Seven Dietary Guidelines?