If you think that dietary guidelines and recommendations are always changing, you are absolutely right. By law, the Department of Health and Human Services must update their dietary guidelines for Americans every five years. New research and discoveries constantly provide new findings about how our bodies work, and what helps or hinders a healthy body. These official guidelines must be adhered to for such programs as school meals and meals on wheels. It is a good idea to take stock of your own diet by comparing it with the latest dietary guidelines released in January 2011.

The first and most pressing part of the report addresses the increasingly overweight and obese tendencies of a large percentage of the American population. It emphasizes “balancing calories to manage weight” and addresses the need for Americans generally to eat less and move more.

The new dietary guidelines indicate what we need to eat less of, and what we need to eat more of, which makes interesting reading. The study recommends that American diets should have fewer calories from SOFAS - that’s solid fats and added sugars in layman’s terms. Currently the average diet has almost three times as many calories from these sources as it should. Refined grains need to be lowered and replaced with whole grains. Sodium intake needs to be lowered from 140% to 100% maximum limits and saturated fats should also be lowered.

On the positive side, we need to eat more whole grains (currently averaging just 15% of recommended levels), more vegetables, fruit, dairy products, seafood and oils. Generally, across the population we need to increase fiber intake along with potassium (currently 56% of the required amount), Vitamin D (currently 28%) and calcium (75%).

Notably, this new report includes three vitamins and supplements in the recommended 10 things we need to eat more of, and these can very easily be addressed with a daily multivitamin supplement. Different brands have different contents, but generally a multivitamin will include 80mg potassium (2% of daily requirements), 400 IU of Vitamin D (100% of daily value) and 500 mg of calcium (50% of daily value).

The full report goes into far more detail, such as specifically recommending increasing vegetables which are dark green, red or orange as these have particular nutrients and health benefits. The new dietary guidelines also calls for Americans to switch from full-fat to low-fat or fat-free milk and to drink water rather than sugar-sweetened drinks.

Salt is another concern which the report addresses, citing that those who over 50, of African-American origin or have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should cut their salt intake to 1,500 mg per day. The average American currently consumes 3,400mg per day, (1.5 teaspoons) requiring a big change in diet. New guidelines advise cutting out fast-food and eating food in its more natural form.

The publication of these new dietary guidelines is a good time to stop, assess your current diet and give yourself a pat on the back or make the move to a more healthy diet and lifestyle where you fall short.