Have you ever wished for a dietary roadmap to help you in your family’s meal planning? Maybe one using a science-based approach by our nation’s top nutrition experts and updated to align with the latest research? The recently released Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report is just that.
First developed in 1980, the Dietary Guidelines are updated every five years. In addition to helping people like you navigate the nutrition world, they’re used for federal nutrition programs and building consumer messages. For example, the National School Lunch Program uses the recommendations in order to feed more than 30 million children every day.
Its new focus is on children’s health. Preventing childhood obesity is the single most powerful public health initiative to combat and reverse our country’s obesity epidemic long term.
- Children and teens should log at least one hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day.
- Kids should be discouraged from drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.
- We should eat a more plant-centered diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
- The benefits of cooked seafood outweigh the risks from mercury and other possible contaminants. Aim for two 4-ounce servings per week.
- Healthy patterns of eating include the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
- Increase the availability of fruits and vegetables.
- Place a greater emphasis on sustainable foods and household food security.
- Daily vitamins don’t benefit healthy people. An exception is people who have a calcium or iron deficiency, who may wish to supplement their diet.
Change our food environment
You likely know what to do. The trouble is doing it. It’s so easy to overeat, eat the wrong foods and not get any exercise. The report acknowledges the difficulty in changing your diet unless changes are made to the overall food environment. How do you eat a nutrient-dense diet at the same time supermarkets, schools, restaurants and other food venues offer myriad food and beverage choices high in fat, sugar and sodium?
The report recommends that we:
- Improve people’s nutrition literacy and cooking skills.
- Motivate families with children to prepare and enjoy more home-cooked meals.
- Encourage the food industry, as well as restaurants, to offer foods that promote health. These include foods low in sodium, added sugars, refined flours and solid fats. Finally, they’re being asked to reduce portion sizes.
A bit of controversy
The committee suggests people reduce sodium to just 1,500 milligrams each day, and cut out foods with added sodium. Some nutrition experts dismiss this as being unrealistic in today’s society. The report also recommends upping potassium in the diet-plentiful in produce-which helps cut sodium’s effect on blood pressure.
According to Toby Smithson, RD, LDN, CDE, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and community dietitian for the Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center, some groups feel there should be more definitive guidelines for the amount of fat in the diet and more emphasis on vitamin D. She adds that some critics want “more focus on choosing whole grains instead of making half your grains whole.”
Released on June 15, the report was open to public comment for 30 days. The panel’s recommendations will be considered when the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services develop the final Dietary Guidelines later this year.
The guidelines will form the basis of the new food guide pyramid, scheduled for revision next spring.
To read the full report, go to dietaryguidelines.gov.
This month’s Good Sense Eating recipe
What are “SoFAS”?
SoFAS refer to the solid fats and added sugars that contribute
too many calories – about 35 percent – to the American diet for
kids, teens and grownups. You likely understand the meaning of
added sugars. Solid fats are the fats in butter, cheese, stick
margarine, vegetable shortening and the fats in meat.