Every five years, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is updated to reflect new findings in nutrition science. The dietary guidelines are the go-to source for nutrition advice for public health professionals and are designed to help Americans eat a healthier diet. The guidelines also influence the development of federal food, nutrition, and health policies and programs, such as school lunch programs and help shape national food assistance programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The target audience is nutrition and health professionals, who then use the information to help Americans make healthy decisions every day.
The updated guidelines emphasize the need to focus on eating patterns that promote health “across the life span.” This includes an eating pattern that contains essential nutrients, foods that reduce the risk of chronic disease, and a calorie intake that maintains a healthy weight.
The 2015-2020 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans offers five main guidelines and several key recommendations that include specific nutritional objectives and dietary boundaries.
The five key guidelines include:
- Follow a healthy pattern across the lifespan. Every decision made regarding your choice of food and drink impacts your health.
- Focus on variety, nutrient-density, and amount. Choose a variety of foods from all food groups that are nutrient dense.
- Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Cut back or eliminate foods and beverages that are higher in these components.
- Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages that will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
- Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone shares responsibility in helping and supporting each other to create healthy eating patterns.
The five key recommendations include:
- Consume a healthy eating pattern that accounts for all foods and beverages within an appropriate calorie level. These foods include a variety of vegetables, whole fruits, healthy grains (at least half of which are whole), and lean meats.
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from sugars. You can read more here about the dangers of added sugars in your diet.
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats. Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can increase the level of cholesterol in the blood and increase the risk of developing heart disease.
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from sodium or, 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium. You can read more here about the dangers of too much sodium in your diet.
- Alcohol should be consumed in moderation. This is equivalent to up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
As health communicators, it is our responsibility to know and understand the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. We are then able to use that knowledge and translate it into educational materials our patients can understand so that they can be equipped to make the best nutritional decisions for their health.