As the nation's obesity crisis continues, federal regulators on Monday issued their bluntest nutrition advice to date: Drink water instead of sugary drinks like soda, fill your plate with fruits and vegetables, and cut down on processed foods filled with sodium, fat or sugar.
More important, perhaps, the government told Americans, "Enjoy your food, but eat less." Many Americans eat too many calories, expanding their waistlines and imperiling their health.
While the recommendations may seem obvious, it is nonetheless considered major progress for federal regulators, who have long skirted the issue, wary of the powerful food lobby.
Previous guidelines urged Americans to curb sugar, solid fats and salt, but avoided naming specific foods, let alone urging consumers to eat less food.
"For them to have said 'eat less' is really new. Who would have thought?" said Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "We should have been saying 'eat less' for a decade."
Robert C. Post, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, said regulators hoped simple messages would resonate better than the more technical prose of the past.
The specific recommendations on various nutrients were largely unchanged in this year's guidelines, compared to the last version in 2005, though reductions in sodium were given much greater emphasis.
Under the guidelines released Monday, about half of the populace should consume 1,500 milligrams of sodium or less each day. That includes children, African-Americans and anyone who is older than 51 or has hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. Everyone else may consume up to 2,300 milligrams, about a teaspoon.
Now, Americans on average consume about 3,500 milligrams of sodium a day.
In addition, the guidelines recommend consuming less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids, replacing them with so-called good fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The guidelines suggest making fruits and vegetables cover half of the plate at a meal, choosing fat-free and low-fat dairy products and eating more whole grains and seafood.