Last week the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 was published. “The main purpose of the Dietary Guidelines is to inform the development of Federal food, nutrition, and health policies and programs. The primary audiences are policymakers, as well as nutrition and health professionals”- like me. The guidelines are not written or to be used specifically by the general public. Instead, the dietary guidelines is a “critical tool for professionals to help Americans make healthy choices in their daily lives to help prevent chronic disease and enjoy a healthy diet.”
Since these guidelines are for health professionals, let me tell you about a couple of these new guidelines.
1. One of the first guidelines is: Follow a healthy eating pattern across your lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. I really like this saying because it is so true. Every choice matters! So here are some foods to include and limit in your eating pattern.
a. Foods to include in your diet:
i. Eat a variety of vegetables—include different colored vegetables like dark-green and red and orange. Other vegetables to include in your diet include legumes (beans and peas) and even starchy vegetables.
ii. Fruits- first and foremost enjoy whole fruits. If you don’t eat whole fruit, 100% fruit juice is your next best option.
iii. Grains- at least half your grains should be whole. Look for words like 100% whole grain or whole grain wheat, whole wheat, whole [grain name], stoneground whole [grain], brown rice, oats, oatmeal (including old-fashioned oatmeal, instant oatmeal), and wheat berries.
iv. Choose Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/ or fortified soy beverages.
v. Enjoy a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products.
vi. Oils- Choose healthy oils like olive oil, canola oil or vegetable oil.
i. Saturated fats (from whole fat dairy, or fatty cuts of meat) and trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils). Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.
ii. Added sugars (includes sugar that is added to foods, not naturally occurring sugar found in fruits, vegetables, grains). The Deitary Guidelines for Americans state that added sugar should be limited to less than 10 percent of calories per day. Meaning that if you consumed a standard 2,000 calorie diet, you could consume 200 calories from added sugar.
Other organizations like the American Heart Association recommend no more than 100 calories per day (about six teaspoons) for women. And no more than 150 calories per day (about nine teaspoons) for men. For women, that is half the recommendation as the Dietary Guidelines. As you can see the message is still mixed. I would recommend consuming closer to the 100 calories per day.
iii. Sodium (limit consumption of processed foods packed with sodium). Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium. Again the message is mixed. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium to 1,500 mg per day. It can be very challenging to limiting sodium to 1,500 mg per day. If you are successfully able to limit it to 2,300 mg per day, that is great!
iv. Something that is not listed here, but I would also include limiting red and processed meat. In 2015, the WHO recommended limiting red and processed meat due to its association with increased colorectal cancer. Choose lean meats like chicken, turkey, or seafood.
2. Another important guideline focuses on variety, nutrient density, and the amount of food consumed.
a. To achieve variety in your diet it is important to eat an mix of foods from the food groups and subgroups as listed above. Here are some of the known benefits of some of the foods described above.
i. Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients, including dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, copper, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B6, folate, iron, manganese, thiamin, niacin, and choline.
ii. Fruits provide dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.
iii. Whole grains are a source of nutrients, such as dietary fiber, iron, zinc, manganese, folate, magnesium, copper, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, selenium, riboflavin, and vitamin A, etc
b. Nutrient Density means you should try to choose foods that are packed with nutrients. Some foods like a candy bar are high in calories and low in nutrients. Instead, choose foods that are high in nutrients and lower in calories. If you choose food that is high in calories, also try to ensure it is high in nutrients.
c. The Amount of Food. The recommendation is for a 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your activity level and age you may be slightly higher or lower.
I hope my explanation of these two guidelines has been helpful. Overall American’s are not following a healthy eating pattern and information listed in the guidelines establishes why certain eating patterns and amounts are recommended. There are a lot more to the guidelines, and I hope to share later in the year.