The guidelines, which come out every five years, tell people 51 and older, all blacks and people with hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney disease to cut their salt intake to 1,500 milligrams, or a little more than half a teaspoon a day.
The recommendation for sodium applies to about half the U.S. population; everyone else should be limited to less than 2,300 milligrams daily, or about a teaspoon, as high salt intake is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease.
The 23 recommendations from the Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments contain some familiar themes:
- Eat fewer calories from solid fat and added sugar.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Eat at least half of your grains as whole grains.
- Consume more fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products.
- Replace solid fats with oils.
- Eating more seafood.
- Limit alcohol to one drink a day for women and two for men.
People also should spend less time on the couch being sedentary and more time being active, the guidelines say.
The guidelines are behind the government's so-called food pyramid, which will be updated in several months. With two-thirds of U.S. adults overweight or obese, the guidelines are intended to help Americans get to a healthy weight while cutting their risk of illnesses like cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
"These new and improved dietary recommendations give individuals the information to make thoughtful choices of healthier foods in the right portions and to complement those choices with physical activity," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. "The bottom line is that most Americans need to trim our waistlines to reduce the risk of developing diet-related chronic disease."
Dietitian Angela Ginn was pleased with the new guidelines, especially those targeting extra sugar and saturated fats like butter and animal fats.
"We all think about the total diet," Ginn, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, told AOL News. "We're looking to make sure Americans are getting more fruits and vegetables and less of solid fats and sugar that can contribute to obesity and Type 2 diabetes."
Sari Greaves, another spokeswoman for the association, also touted the whole-diet approach to the guidelines and says the plan doesn't forbid any food but focuses on good nutrition and exercise.
"It's taking into account the idea of balancing calories in and calories out through proper food choices, enough physical activity and choosing foods that give the biggest nutrient bang for the buck," Greaves told AOL News. "It's not an all or nothing policy. It's the pattern of eating -- cutting back on some foods and replacing them with healthier ones."
Reducing salt intake may be hard for people who've developed a taste for it, she says, but home cooks can use herbs, spice rubs and 100 percent fruit juice to add flavor. "You almost have to retrain your palate," she said.
The guidelines, she said, provide a framework for healthy eating that everyone should adapt to their eating habits.
"We're living in a day and age when we have a plague of obesity and there are a staggering number of fad diets that tend to be counterproductive," she said. "As long as (people) take the guidelines and utilize them in a way that speaks to their personal eating pattern, they will benefit."