Every five years, the federal government updates its dietary guidelines to help American stay healthy.

Based on the USDA 2010 guidelines place more emphasis on achieving a healthy body weight and choosing nutrient-dense foods and beverages to confront the national obesity epidemic and reduce diseases. Below you’ll find the key recommendations.

Achieving a Healthy Weight

1. Maintain a healthy body weight. More than one third of children, 72% of men, and 64% of women are overweight or obese in the United States. To lose that excess weight, most of us will need to cut back on calories and increase our levels of physical activity.

2. Control portion sizes. You can still enjoy the foods you love, but practice moderation. Try a small scoop of ice cream garnished with lots of fresh berries. Measure out an ounce of nuts, which is about 20 almonds, for an afternoon snack.

3. Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits. One simple way to cut back on calories is to make at least half of each meal vegetables and fruits. Just be sure to go easy on any added fats and sugars like butter or sweetened salad dressing.

4. Replace fats that are solid at room temperature with liquid fats. Save the butter for special occasions. Dip whole-wheat pita triangles in extra virgin olive oil. Make foods from scratch so you can control the amount and type of oils used.

Consuming Nutrient-Dense Foods and Beverages

1. Make whole grain foods 50% or more of your diet. Whole grain products have far more nutrients than refined grains. When you’re food shopping, look for the percentage of whole grains in products. When you’re baking, try blending whole-wheat flour and white flour together until your taste buds adjust.

2. Seek variety in your vegetables. If your salad looks pretty, it may be better for you. Different colored vegetables contain different nutrients. Look for dark green spinach and broccoli, red beets and peppers, and orange carrots and squash.

3. Drink more water. Sugary soft drinks are loaded with empty calories. Even diet sodas may make you crave more sweets and weaken your bones. Switch to water so you can save those calories for more nutritious offerings. Add a wedge of lime to enhance the flavor.

4. Put more seafood in your diet. Aim for at least 8 ounces of seafood a week by replacing meat or poultry with fish at least twice a week. Broiling fish fillets takes less than 10 minutes.

5. Plan your meals around plant-based foods. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, planning some meals around vegetarian foods gives you additional delicious options for light eating. Beans are a cheap and satisfying source of protein for soups or burritos. Turn a salad into a main dish by tossing in lentils or nuts.

Additional Recommendations

1. Eat less salt. The general recommendation is up to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. If you’re over age 51, African-American, or have certain conditions like diabetes, keep under 1,500 milligrams per day. Read the labels on processed foods because they’re often the worst culprits.

2. Take additional steps if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for taking iron supplements. Choose foods that supply iron like meat, poultry and fish. Eat a varied diet that includes sources of folate and ask your doctor about folic acid supplements.

3. Prevent food borne illnesses. Follow the four basic food safety principles of cleaning, separating, cooking and chilling. Some foods should be avoided altogether like unpasteurized dairy products and undercooked animal foods. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly and use separate cutting boards for meat and produce. Store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer.

The 2010 government food guidelines are based on the most current scientific research. By incorporating them into your everyday life, you can help you and your family to live longer and enjoy a better quality of life.