Earlier this month, the United States government released new Dietary Guidelines for Americans ages two and older. Issued every five years by the US Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines are designed to foster a healthier diet, promote health, prevent chronic disease, and help Americans maintain a healthy weight.
Notable changes to the new guidelines include less emphasis on specific nutrients and more emphasis on overall eating patterns. For example, what you eat over time influences risk for certain diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. In general, plant-based, unprocessed foods help reduce risk.
The new guidelines recognize that American do not receive enough calcium, vitamin D, fiber, and potassium. Therefore, emphasis is now placed on the following foods to meet nutrition gaps. A healthy diet includes:
- A variety of vegetables: dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), etc.
- Fruits: especially whole fruit
- Grains: at least half of which are whole grain
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
- A variety of protein foods: seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds
- Oils: those from plants such as olive and peanut oil, as well as oils naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives, and avocados.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommends Americans limit thier sodium intake and the amount of sugary foods and beverages consumed:
- Adults and children ages fourteen years and over should limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day, and children younger than fourteen years should consume even less. Salty chips and canned soups are often high in sodium.
- Limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of daily caloric needs. Americans consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices, and other sugary drinks. High sugar intake has been linked to everything from dental cavities to obesity to type 2 diabetes, to heart disease. Daily added sugar intake should be under 200 calories per day, or 12 teaspoons of sugar. For children, who may only need 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day — it's even less.
Use the Nutrition Facts label to check for sodium and added sugars to make informed food choices. A healthy eating pattern is adaptable to a person’s taste preferences, traditions, culture, and budget.
Submitted by Leslie K. Kay-Getzinger, Regional Dietitian for Nutrition Management Services
Image by Health.gov