What are the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Why Are They Important To Our Community?
Since the first edition was published in 1980, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have provided science-based advice on what to eat and drink to promote health, reduce risk of chronic disease, and meet nutrient needs. Publication of the Dietary Guidelines is required every five years. The Dietary Guidelines is designed for policymakers and nutrition and health professionals and is used to develop, implement, and evaluate Federal food, nutrition, and health policies and programs. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 is the first set of guidelines that provide guidance for healthy dietary patterns by life stage, from birth through older adulthood, and for the first time, there are chapters devoted to each life stage, including chapters on infants and toddlers and women who are pregnant or lactating. Join the presentation and discussion on what the Dietary Guidelines mean to us.
Community Conversation 2/28/21
The following is a brief summary of a detailed treatment of the Dietary Guidelines for Americas 2020/2025 as presented by Joan Ward Ph.D.,RD.
Joan began with some background that very likely most of the audience did not know- Dietary Guidelines for Americans have been published every five years since 1980 by the federal government. They are designed for policymakers and nutrition and health professionals and are used to develop, implement, and evaluate food, nutrition and health policies at all levels, Federal, state, and local. It was reassuring to hear that the recommendations are developed on science-based advice, since they tell us what to eat and drink to promote health, reduce risk of chronic disease, and meet nutrient needs.
Joan highlighted an important advancement with the 2020/25 Guidelines. This is the first set of guidelines that provide guidance for healthy dietary patterns by life stage, from birth through older adulthood, and for the first time, there are chapters devoted to each life stage, including chapters on infants and toddlers and women who are pregnant or lactating.
Four key points about "Making Every Bite Count:" comprise the main take-away: 1. Dietary Pattern - Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage; 2. Nutrient Dense - Customize and enjoy nutrient dense food and beverage choices based on culture, budget, and preference; 3. Calories - Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient dense foods and beverages within caloric limitations; 4. Limit - Limit foods and beverages that are higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium and limit alcoholic beverages. The avid label reader meets the Guidelines every time she makes a food purchase; they are the basis for the update to the Nutrition Facts Label found on every "manufactured" food on the shelf, which includes "Added Sugars" in addition to the naturally occurring sugars as well as the four vitamins/minerals now found lacking in the typical American diet - Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Potassium.
The Guidelines are also the basis for MyPlate, the image that now replaces the familiar pyramid that we are accustomed to seeing. The new image is a plate which shows that, on average, one-half should be fruits and vegetables, one quarter protein foods, and one quarter grains (emphasizing whole grains.) MyPlate is heavily influenced by the Mediterranean Diet and is a vast improvement over the previously carbohydrate-heavy pyramid; however it is not without its limitations. Joan noted that both the MyPlate image and the Guidelines have been criticized, the Guidelines because they do not address health equity issues and sustainability and the image because it is not sensitive to ethnic and cultural diversity. That failure makes it impractical, for example, to use it with individuals whose orientation to food comes from a MyFamily perspective – a bowl of mixed food groups from which the family is served– rather than the individual perspective of a single plate with separate servings of the four food groups.
In summary, though, the emphasis on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and limiting salt, saturated fat and added sugar, makes the Guidelines a major instrument in the fight against diet-related diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and obesity, diseases which threaten the lives of so many Americans.