What’s New in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans ~ Charlotte Davis, R.D., L.D.

What’s New in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans ~ Charlotte Davis, R.D., L.D.

If you have read the Live It Food Plan details in the First Place 4 Health Member’s Guide, you found that our food plan is based upon The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  Choose MyPlate, a nutrition education program that expands on these guidelines to help provide specific individual nutrition goals, has become a familiar term in our country.

Recently, you may have seen in the media that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have been updated.   Every five (5) years, USDA and HHS publish the Dietary Guidelines to reflect the current body of scientific evidence on nutrition, food and health.  The following 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines will be the current policy until the release of the next edition in 2020:

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan.  All food and beverage choices matter.  Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
  2. 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.
  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.  Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.  Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.  Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices.  Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
  5. Support healthy eating patterns for all.  Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.*

Looks pretty familiar, doesn’t it?  That’s because these concepts are already covered in the First Place 4 Health food plan!  So, what is different from the 2010 version of the Guidelines?

First of all, when you look closely, these new guidelines expand upon the 2010 edition’s primary focus on weight management to address the prevention of a broader range of diet-related chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.  I believe they want people to realize that making healthy food choices is KEY in staying healthy and strong, not just focusing on weight loss to look good (which we have preached in FP4H all along!).

Secondly, while previous editions focused primarily on specific, individual dietary components, these new guidelines really emphasize “overall eating patterns”, the combinations of all the foods and drinks that people consume every day.  Again, this just validates what FP4H is all about—an overall “lifestyle” change.  One meal or even one DAY is not as important as what we do on a consistent basis.   I have a dietitian colleague who says “It’s not what we eat between Thanksgiving and Christmas that is the real problem—it is what we eat between Christmas and Thanksgiving!”

And finally, there is definitely more emphasis on “nutrient-dense” choices across all food groups.  What does that mean?  USDA/HHS explains nutrient density as “a characteristic of foods and beverages that provide vitamins, minerals, and other substances that contribute to adequate nutrient intakes or may have positive health effects—with little or no solid fats and added sugars, refined starches, and sodium.”  In other words, we all need to try to get “more bang for our buck” when it comes to choosing foods in each group!  Especially when you are following the lower calorie food plans (1300-1400, 1500-1600), it is virtually impossible to stay within the calorie guidelines if you daily choose fried vegetables and a sugary dessert as a grain choice!  Go with steamed broccoli or roasted asparagus and fresh berries instead; you will have a much lower “calorie price tag” and get MUCH more health benefits from these “nutrient-dense” choices.

Charlotte Davis, R.D., L.D…………………………tckjdavis@windstream.net