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A Guide to the New Dietary Guidelines


Dear Eating Right: What is the difference between the recently issued Dietary Guidelines and the old ones? How should I use them?


Los Angeles

Dear Jennifer: The major difference between the third edition of the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" booklet and previous editions is simply a matter of approach. Formerly, the list of seven principles for good health appeared to be a set of rules and regulations. Consumers were advised to "maintain desirable weight" and to "avoid too much sugar and sodium."

Now the emphasis is different: the guidelines stress moderation, describing their potential benefits, rather than the problems you might face if you don't follow them.

When the "Dietary Goals for the United States" booklet was first released in 1977 by a Senate Select Committee, the idea was to provide nutrition advice to Americans that would enable them to take responsibility for maintaining their health and reducing their risk of illness. Since that time, a government panel of experts has made adjustments in the recommendations based on available scientific knowledge.

Although the third edition contains more than 47 changes in the text that accompanies each guideline, the basic advice remains the same: since no one food supplies all the essential nutrients in the amounts the body needs, you should still "eat a variety of foods" each day. These include: breads, cereals and grains; fruits and vegetables; meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dry beans and peas; and dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Drinking alcohol in moderation is still advised.

The change from a prohibitive tone is most obvious in the remaining guidelines:

"Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol": Formerly, the guidelines said consumers should "avoid too much fat, saturated fat and cholesterol." The accompanying text pointed out that eating these fats could increase blood cholesterol and that an elevated blood cholesterol can raise your risk of heart disease. The new edition uses a more positive approach. It offers more tips for food selection and gives specific recommendations for the amount of each food that is desirable to avoid these diseases.

"Choose a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits and grain products": Since grains, fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber as well as some other nutrients, they are now specified as foods to include in the diet more frequently. Previously, the guidelines said "eat foods with adequate starch and fiber" for good health.

"Maintain healthy weight": Desirable weight is no longer determined by the Metropolitan Insurance Weight Table. Under the new guidelines, individuality is a key in assessing what is a healthy weight for you. It will be determined by your overall body ratio of fat to muscle and by your waist-to-hip ratio. The focus will be on fitness and exercise, not on fatness.

Although most health groups, including the American Dietetic Assn., view the guidelines booklet as a valuable tool to educate the public, one consumer group complained that it doesn't go far enough. "This is a Band-Aid," said Jayne Hurley, associate nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, "the American diet needs surgery."

But Betty Peterkin, executive secretary of the Dietary Guidelines committee, explains "This booklet is not intended to tell everything that everyone needs to know about choosing a healthful diet." She explains that if you need help incorporating these goals into daily living, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has prepared a series of practical publications, called "Eating Right the Dietary Guidelines Way," that explain how to select and prepare foods using the Dietary Guidelines. Topics include: how to plan menus; how to prepare bag lunches, snacks and desserts; and how to eat out using the Dietary Guidelines.

If you would like a free copy of the new Dietary Guidelines booklet and information on how to order the other publications, write to: Consumer Information Center, Dept. 514X, Pueblo, Colo., 81009.

The graham cracker crust and crumb topping add dietary fiber to this reduced - sugar - and - fat fruit pie.


1 cup graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons margarine

1 (15 1/4-ounce) can crushed pineapple, in juice

1 (16-ounce) can apricot halves, in juice

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine crumbs and margarine until thoroughly mixed. Reserve 1/4 cup mixture. Press remaining crumb mixture into 8-inch pie plate, covering sides and bottom completely. Bake at 375 degrees 5 minutes or until firm. Cool.

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