New Eating Guidelines Made Simple

JoanBahr_thumbby Joan Bahr, MS, Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator at Southwest Health

Americans now have new Dietary Guidelines thanks to the Federal Government… and you may be curious what that all means for you!

Every five years the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and of Agriculture (USDA) must jointly publish a report offering the best possible advice based on the latest scientific research. Of course, every person in America gets to do or think what he or she feels about these guidelines, yet the fact is they are created to help improve the health of the population.

Previous renditions focused more on specific foods, such as you should eat “x” amount of grains and “y” amount of vegetables, to be sure that you are getting all the nutrients you need just to survive. But, as the advances in science have generally helped Americans live long and productive lives, basic survival is no longer the focus. Today’s problem is the rates of chronic diseases – such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity – have increased. As a result, life spans may actually decrease in coming years.

These chronic diseases responsible for the problems today are often related to a poor quality diet and lack of physical activity. As these official guidelines state “About half of all American adults have one or more preventable, diet-related chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.” For that reason, this edition focuses on overall dietary patterns.

kids-eatingHere’s what you need to know or do:

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across your lifespan. All your food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, get the essential nutrients your body needs, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet your body’s needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.
  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats. And reduce sodium. Eat foods low in added sugars, low in saturated fats, and low in sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in each of these things.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
  5. Support healthy eating patterns for all. EVERYONE plays a role in supporting healthy eating in homes, in schools, in work places, and across our communities.

In addition to the guidelines and recommendations, Americans of all ages – children, adolescents, adults and older adults, should meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans to help promote health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. As we all know, physical activity and diet both contribute to balancing calories and maintaining your body weight.

If you are interested in learning more about the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, contact the author of this blog, Joan Bahr, MS, RD, CDE at Southwest Health at 608-342-5025. As a registered dietitian, she will be delighted to share the guidelines with you or any community group. For the complete report go to:

Joan Bahr, MS RD CDE
Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator
Southwest Health (608) 342-5025
Epione Pavilion (608) 744-3966

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