Understanding the New American Dietary Guidelines
As science advances, it is important to apply newfound knowledge to everyday life. To help spread understanding of nutrition’s role in health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publishes Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Released every five years, these guidelines are designed to help improve the health of the U.S. population.
The 2015-2020 guidelines, released on January 7, map out a clear path for people to follow to optimize health and prevent chronic disease. What does this mean for us as consumers and educators? Consider the following key takeaways from the new guidelines.
Eat for Health and for the Long Run
A healthy eating pattern can be established for an individual’s lifetime, helping reach and maintain a healthy weight. Eating healthily also helps prevents chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. There is more than one type of healthy eating pattern, and various examples are included in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.
Focus on Variety, Nutrient Density, and Amount
To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts. Salmon, potatoes, avocados, beans and legumes, blueberries, kale, and spinach are excellent examples.
Limit Calories from Added Sugars and Saturated Fats and Reduce Sodium Intake
Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.
Try drinking water instead of an afternoon soda. When eating out, order a smaller drink size.
Start with Small Changes
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the idea of changing what we eat. By focusing on small improvements over time, eating healthy becomes more manageable. With so many choices to make every single day about what to eat and drink, each choice is an opportunity to make a small but healthy change.
Consider switching from refined white rice to whole grain brown rice. Reduce the amount of sugar added to your morning coffee. Choose a piece of fruit for your mid-morning snack.
Support Healthy Choices for Everyone
Everyone can play a role in encouraging easy, accessible, and affordable ways to support healthy choices at home, school, work, and in the community. Check out the Social-Ecological Model included in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans which helps illustrate the different influences on personal health. Each individual impacts the community’s lifestyle views. Learn more about how you can help support healthy choices.
View the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans online for more detailed information.
Written by Beth Marrs, Adult Home Economics Education Specialist. Edited by Lauren State, Oldham County Extension Staff Assistant. Reviewed by Chris Duncan, Oldham County Family & Consumer Sciences Agent.