The New Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Last year, the eighth edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released. While we know that one size does not fit all, it is important to understand the purpose of these guidelines within proper context.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) are the cornerstone of Federal nutrition policy and nutrition education activities, which of course, involves funding. Since 1980, the Guidelines have been jointly issued and updated every five years by the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS). They are designed to assist policy makers and health professionals working within Federal food, nutrition and health programs in advising the public on the relationship of diet to health and disease, based on current scientific knowledge.
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines expand upon the 2010 edition’s focus on weight management to address prevention of diet-related chronic diseases. While previous editions focused primarily on specific dietary components, the new guidelines take a broader view, emphasizing healthy eating patterns and making healthy choices for all foods and beverages within an appropriate calorie level.
The new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines are:
- Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan: All food and beverage choices matter.
- Focus on variety, nutrient density and amount Choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across all food groups in recommended amounts.
- Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.
- Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
- Support healthy eating patterns for all.
The Guidelines include a plethora of supporting interpretive documents, education and communication tools. There are 14 appendices to the DGA; here are the two most notable, in my opinion: Appendix 4, Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern; and Appendix 5, Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern. Wow! That is new!
According to the DGA’s key recommendations, a healthy eating pattern includes:
- A variety of vegetables from all subgroups (including dark green, red and orange), legumes, starchy, etc.
- Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains, with at least half being whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy products and / or fortified soy beverages
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and soy products
- Healthy mono- and polyunsaturated oils
While there is no longer a focus or limit on dietary cholesterol, there are quantified limits on saturated and trans fats, added sugars, sodium and even alcohol. The new DGA specifies:
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.
- Consume less than 2,300 milligrams per day of sodium.
- If alcohol is consumed, use moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
- You can read more at http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/ dietary-guidelines.
By Lisa Murray, RDN, LD