Revised Dietary Guidelines Call for More Exercise, Fewer Calories

The revised Dietary Guidelines have put an even greater emphasis on the need to manage weight to prevent obesity and chronic disease.

Struggling to lose weight? Don't exercise enough? You're not alone. According to the latest research, almost two out of three Americans are overweight or obese, and one half don't get enough exercise. And that puts them at greater risk of chronic disease.

In response, the government's Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has revised its recommendations. It now places more emphasis on strategies to manage weight.

The national guidelines are generally for healthy people and are not for those on restricted or special diets. Here is a summary:

Physical activity

There is no doubt that exercise can help control weight and lower risk of disease. Just be sure to check with your doctor before you start any exercise program. Here are the recommendations:

  • To reduce your risk for chronic disease: Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week. "Moderate" exercise is any physical activity that uses as much energy as walking two miles in a half hour.
  • To manage body weight or prevent weight gain: Sixty minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise most days of the week.
  • To sustain weight loss: Sixty to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day.
  • All physical activity programs should include: Cardiovascular, strength training and flexibility exercises.


Healthy eating

To prevent weight gain, most adults need to eat less and exercise more. Reduced portions and balanced, regular meals are essential. New guidelines focus on:

  • Eating a variety of foods
  • Lowering total calories from fats and sweets
  • Increasing nutrient-rich foods.  



Increase intake of fruits, vegetables, beans, low-fat dairy and grains. Cut down on your intake of processed carbs from sweets and refined flour products.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Loaded with nutrients, they are also helpful for weight loss.
  • Get more whole grains. Whole-grain foods are rich in nutrients, including protein, vitamins and minerals.
  • Choose low-fat dairy by replacing whole milk products with fat-free or low-fat alternatives.
  • Include more legumes (beans, lentils, split peas). These foods contain carbs and protein, and are rich in fiber and other vital nutrients.
  • Avoid foods and beverages with added sugars, including corn syrups and other sweeteners.  


Aim to keep your fat intake to 30 percent or less of your total calories. This is the equivalent of 66 grams of fat (about 600 calories) on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. No more than 10 percent of your calories should be from saturated fats. Follow these tips for reducing fat and cholesterol:

  • Cut down on high-fat meat and dairy products. Eat only lean cuts of meat and trim away excess fat and skin from poultry.
  • Avoid fried and "fast" foods. These tend to be prepared in oils made of saturated (animal) fats.
  • Avoid snack foods and baked goods that list saturated fats as one of the first ingredients. Also avoid those made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or vegetable shortening. These are sources of trans fatty acids, which raise your risk of heart disease.
  • Choose healthy fats. Use olive oil or canola oil. Eat small amounts of nuts and seeds, fatty fish (such as salmon and sardines) and avocado.

Sodium and potassium

Keep salt to less than 2,300 mg of sodium (about one teaspoon of table salt) per day. Avoid foods with added salt. Eat more fruits and vegetables that are rich in potassium, such as fruits and vegetables, beans and low-fat dairy.

Alcoholic beverages

If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

  • For men: Up to two drinks per day
  • For women: Up to one drink per day
  • Those who should not drink alcohol at all: Children, teens, women who may become pregnant, pregnant and lactating women, people on medications that can interact with alcohol and those with substance abuse problems




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