"Poor diet and physical inactivity are the most important factors contributing to an epidemic of overweight and obesity affecting men, women, and children in all segments of our society," says the Executive Summary to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. As obesity levels continue to rise, most of us need to get more active, know the limit of calories we really need, and eat a balanced nutrient- dense diet.

Physical Activity

Get Moving!: Too many people are simply inactive and spend too long doing sedentary activities. "All adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits."

30 Minutes of Moderate Exercise a Day or 2.5 Hours per Week: Brisk walking or other moderate-intensity exercise for 30 minutes a day (or 2.5 hours per week) in at least ten-minute intervals is recommended to reduce health risks. For the best effect, it should be spread out throughout the week. For those who prefer vigorous exercise, the minimum is 75 minutes per week. A combination of moderate and vigorous is also acceptable.

More Exercise is Better: Sixty minutes a day (300 minutes per week) of moderate-intensity exercise or 150 minutes of vigorous exercise has additional health benefits. Even more exercise is also said to be even better.

Muscle Strengthening Two Days a Week: Adults should do muscle- strengthening exercises for all major muscle groups at least twice a week.

Older Adults - No Slacking: Those over age 65 should follow the adult recommendations, plus add balance-improving exercises if they are at risk of falls. They should decide the intensity of the exercise they can tolerate, but should be as active as possible for their condition.

Children: 60 Minutes a Day, and More Intensity: Children need even more exercise than adults -- 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise, which should include muscle-strengthening activity, bone-strengthening activity and vigorous exercise at least three days a week. Children and adolescents need a variety of physical activities that are age-appropriate and fun.

Building Healthy Eating Patterns


Appropriate Calorie Levels: "Select an eating pattern that meets
nutrient needs over time at an appropriate calorie level." Knowing how many calories you really need is a key to maintaining a healthy body weight. Then find the eating pattern that gives you the right nutrients within that number. 

Know What and How Much You are Really Eating: "Account for all foods and beverages consumed and assess how they fit within a total healthy eating pattern." This is a strong recommendation to keep a food diary and use a tool to analyze your diet to look for things you don't need and where you need more. Our free Calorie Count site lets you record your food and exercise online and give a free analysis and grading of your diet. It can be used for a personal food diary.

Food Safety: "Follow food safety recommendations when preparing and eating foods to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses." 

Weight Management Advice

Chapter 2 of the 2010 guidelines include the physical activity recommendations and also have some specific advice for weight management, based on the strongest evidence.

Focus on Calories: Knowing how many calories per day you really
need, and getting enough nutrients within that number is their recommendation for weight management. Low calorie foods may help people improve their body weight. 

Monitor Your Food Intake and Weight: Knowing how much you are eating and tracking your body weight is a tactic for success. Read the nutrition labels and consider using a tool such as our Calorie Count site.

Have Smaller Portions when Eating Out, or Eat at Home: Use portion control when eating out - order a smaller portion, share your meal, take some home. Calorie counts and nutrition information is often lacking when eating out, and eating at home may be a better option. 

Smaller Portions of Food and Beverage: When you prepare and serve food, serve a smaller portion, especially of calorie-dense food.

Eat a Nutrient-Dense Breakfast: A healthy breakfast has evidence of helping in weight management.

Limit Screen Time: Screen time in front of the television, video games and computers is associated with overweight and obesity. Limit time per day and try to avoid eating while watching television.


Food Groups to Encourage


  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables, especially choose dark green and red and orange vegetables and beans and peas.
  • At least half the grains should come from whole grains.
  • Low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, cheese and fortified soy products are good.
  • Eat a variety of seafood in place of some meat and poultry.
  • Replace proteins that are high in solid fat with those lower in solid fat and calories.
  • Use oils to replace solid fats where possible.
  • Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, such a fruit, vegetables, whole grains and milk products.
  • Food Groups to Avoid
  • Sodium: No more than 2,300 milligrams per day, and even further reduce to 1,500 mg if you are African-American or over age 50, or if you have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
  • Less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids.
  • Less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol • Avoid trans fatty acids
  • Reduce intake of solid fats and added sugars.
  • Limit refined grains.
  • Alcohol: no more than one drink per day for women and two drink for men of legal age.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010." Accessed January 31, 2011.