January 7, 2016 marked the release of the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 – 2020. Since the introduction of the dietary guidelines in 1980 15% of Americans were classifies as obese, now more than 35 years later this statistic has ballooned to 35% of all Americans. Obviously the intended messages of the guidelines are not impacting our society in the way they were intended. So what are the new dietary guidelines, how are they different, and how can they impact change in our society?
- Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan
- Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount
- Limit calories from added sugar and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake
- Shift to healthier food and beverage choices
- Support healthier eating patterns for all
How they are different:
The new dietary guidelines are much broader to allow focus on small changes in the diet instead of letting individual food groups and nutrients consume you. The key component is emphasis on a healthy eating pattern that is calorically appropriate to help support a healthy body weight and reduce risk of chronic disease. Shifts in personalized food and beverage choices need to be made to achieve a healthy eating pattern and increase nutrients of concern such as potassium, calcium, Vitamin D, and fiber.
A new specific limit on added sugars to less than 10% of calories is highlighted in the new guidelines. Paying attention to identifying sugary beverages in your diet and limiting these can make a huge impact on eliminating excessive calories in your diet and may even aid in trimming up your waistline.
There has also been a removal of a specific limit on dietary cholesterol. Evidence shows there is no relationship between dietary and serum cholesterol. It is now recommended that Americans eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.
The new guidelines offer an adaptable framework to allow food choices that fit in your budget and align with personal and cultural preferences. Benefits of these new guidelines enable you to choose a diet that is right for you.
Below are key recommendations to consider when implementing a heathy eating pattern:
- Include a variety of vegetables – dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), and starchy
- Focus on fruits, especially whole
- Grab grains, at least half should be whole grains
- Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified soy beverages)
- Implement in your diet a variety of protein foods (seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products)
- When possible, choose oils as fat sources
- Limit saturated fats, trans fats, added sugar, and sodium
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugar
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats
- Consume less than 2,300 mg per day of sodium
- Limit alcohol to one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men
- Meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise)
Simple solutions to make these recommendations work for YOU:
- Make a switch to replace sugary desserts with fruit instead
- Limit soda or energy drinks to one per day
- Tailor portion sizes to fit your needs
- Substitute medium or high fat protein for lean choices each day
- Cook more often at home to limit added sugar and sodium
- Make a conscience effort to increase daily activity
- The Mediterranean, vegetarian, and DASH diets are all examples of healthy eating patterns
Impact of society in order to implement change:
With the new dietary guidelines there is a shift toward the idea that everyone plays a role in supporting healthy eating patterns. It is time to recognize that there is more influence on our food choices than education and will power alone. Other factors play a vital role in influencing food choices such as, personal relationships, where you live, work, and shop. Health professionals, industries, government, and communities are needed to support Americans and their families in making dietary and physical activity choices that align with the Dietary Guidelines. It is important to support local farmers, get involved to increase recreational access in your neighborhood, and foster partnership with food manufacturers to align more accessibility to recommended foods. Everyone plays a role in making healthy changes and in improving the health of the current and future generation. For more information on the dietary guidelines please visit http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
Special thanks to dietetic intern Amanda Cravinho for her contributions to this post.