Dietary guidelines: What’s in and what’s not

Dietary guidelines: What’s in and what’s not

Lean meat still on the plate and sustainability standards not part of the equation of what is healthy

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans do not contain any provisions that should drive federal, institutional or consumer shifts away from meat as the major protein source in diets, and they do not include extraneous matters, such as requiring food producers to meet sustainability standards or taxing certain foods as a way to reduce their consumption.

Updated every five years, this report serves as the foundation for federal nutrition policy and shapes the recommendations found on USDA’s MyPlate. So despite the average American maybe not taking much notice of the changes, it has an impact on the money the government flows into food from school lunches to hospitals.

In December 2014, I first reported about how the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee would be urging USDA and HHS to strike lean mean from being included in a healthful dietary pattern. Livestock groups made their feelings on the subject known and made plenty of noise about it.

Bottom line – lean meat can still be part of a healthy diet. In fact, the guidelines note that people aren’t getting enough potassium, calcium, vitamin D, iron and dietary fiber and single out meat as the best source of iron and pork as a source of vitamin D. However, the document urges some men and teenage boys who eat too much protein to cut back on meat, eggs and poultry.

The DGA notes that current intakes of dairy foods for most Americans “are far below recommendations of the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern,” and they call for a shift to consume more dairy products.

A joint statement from dairy groups noted that because of dairy foods’ nutrient-rich package, it can be challenging for most Americans, mainly those aged nine and older, to meet nutrient recommendations without eating three servings of dairy a day.  “When foods from the dairy group are removed from daily eating patterns, or replaced with sugar-sweetened beverages, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin A and riboflavin dropped below 100% of goals. What’s more, levels of vitamin D and potassium, as well as choline, dropped substantially,” the groups said.

As for the other big changes, the International Food Information Council outlined these 7 important things you need to know about the 2015-2020 DGA:

As for the other big changes, the International Food Information Council outlined these 7 important things you need to know about the 2015-2020 DGA:

In the end, the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines focuses on three main takeaways to help Americans make decisions about healthy eating as outlined by this blog from USDA.

  • Eat for health and for the long run. There was a lot of focus this time around on a healthy eating pattern, and one that isn’t a one-size-fits all approach.
  • Start with small changes. By focusing on small improvements, eating healthy becomes more manageable. American adults consume about 50% more sodium than the guidelines recommend. And almost 9 in 10 Americans get less than the recommended amount of vegetables.
  • Support healthy choices for everyone. Everyone has a role to play in encouraging easy, accessible, and affordable ways to support healthy choices at home, school, work, and in the community.
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