Have you heard? The new Dietary Guidelines have finally been released! What does this mean for you as a health professional? The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focus on five main points:
- follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan
- focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount
- 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 USDA and HHS recommendations reflect data that shows healthy eating and regular exercise can combat obesity and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. What’s also new is a shift from focusing on eating individual food groups to healthful eating patterns. This includes a first time ever recommendation to reduce intake of added sugar to a specific amount — 10% of total daily calories.
Healthy eating is one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce the onset of disease. The Dietary Guidelines can help you, your patients, and their families make informed choices about eating. Its important to find a healthy eating pattern that is adaptable to a person’s taste preferences, traditions, culture, and budget.
10 Tips For a Healthy Eating Pattern
- A variety of vegetables: dark green, red, and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other vegetables
- Fruits, especially whole fruit
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grain
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds
- Oils, including those from plants: canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower
- Oils also are naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives, and avocados
- Added Sugars – Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugars. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include natural sugars found in milk and fruits.
- Saturated and Trans Fat – Less than 10% of your daily calories should also come from saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil. Saturated fats should be replaced with unsaturated fats, such as canola or olive oil.
- Sodium (salt) – Adults and children ages 14 years and over should limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day, and children younger than 14 years should consume even less. Use the Nutrition Facts label to check for sodium, especially in processed foods like pizza, pasta dishes, sauces, and soups.
Most Americans can benefit from making small shifts in their daily eating habits to improve their health over the long run. Small shifts in food choices—over the course of a week, a day, or even a meal—can make a difference in working toward a healthy eating pattern that works for you.
Remember physical activity! Regular physical activity is one of the most important things individuals can do to improve their health. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week and should perform muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days each week. Children ages 6 to 17 years need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, including aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities.
Everyone Has A Role…
Whether you are at home, school, your worksite, in your community, or even at a food retail outlet, how will you encourage easy, accessible, and affordable ways to support healthy choices?
- HOME: Try out small changes to find what works for you like adding more veggies to favorite dishes, planning meals and cooking at home, and incorporating physical activity into time with family or friends.
- SCHOOLS: Improve the selection of healthy food choices in cafeterias and vending machines, provide nutrition education programs and school gardens, increase school-based physical activity, and encourage parents and caregivers to promote healthy changes at home.
- WORKPLACES: Encourage walking or activity breaks; offer healthy food options in the cafeteria, vending machines, and at staff meetings or functions; and provide health and wellness programs and nutrition counseling.
- COMMUNITIES: Increase access to affordable, healthy food choices through community gardens, farmers’ markets, shelters, and food banks and create walkable communities by maintaining safe public spaces.
- FOOD RETAIL OUTLETS: Inform consumers about making healthy changes and provide healthy food choices.
Join the conversations and help spread the word by using hashtags #dietaryguildelines and #MyPlateMyWins on social media.
Source: Health.gov; Top 10 Things You Need to Know About the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans by U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion