If you’re in the business of nutrition, whether that’s eating, preparing food for people to eat, selling food, or delivering food education in the United States, you’re probably aware of the much anticipated news that broke this week. With much ado, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, updated every 5 years, were recently released. Right alongside diet advice from nearly everyone else you’d expect during the month of January. While the Dietary Guidelines are geared toward professionals, the content is what trickles down into the messages you receive from educators and food manufacturers about what to eat, what to avoid, and what to expect to see in your processed food. If you’re an organic farmer, gardener, or live off the land, keep on! You’re most likely a step ahead.
It seems like just yesterday I was an intern in Washington, D.C., with the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, working on projects that followed the 2010 launch of the Dietary Guidelines. You might recall… That’s when we finally dropped the food pyramid (thank goodness!), and adopted the more practical, ‘My Plate’. In my humble opinion, a step in the right direction at least. One thing I came to quickly realize, that while ‘The Government’ is highly scrutinized for what gets released, there are hardworking, highly intelligent, men and women who look and smell just like you and I, that work their tails off for 5 years, sifting through the endless mountains of research to come up with the best information we have to date that suggest what we should and shouldn’t be eating to stay healthy.
Now, I won’t get into debate about research funding, lobbying and vested interest. It’s not worth my time spent wondering or worrying. However, what I do know is that while we may not all agree or disagree with the guidelines in their entirety, for the most part, they’re pretty spot on.
Let’s take a second to break things down and highlight a couple of the changes you’ll see rolling out in restaurants and grocery stores across the nation.
Image sourced: http://hpjmh.com/2015/02/26/2015-dietary-guidelines-good-news-and-bad/
The long awaited focus on how much sugar we’ve grown to consume has now become government interest and should certainly be one of our own. According to the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans – limiting sugar to no more than 10% of daily calories is a good idea. A better idea… Strive to limit it even further than that, or just be savvy with your choices. 10% is still a pretty good chunk if you think the ‘Average American’ consumes 2000 calories each day. That’s 200 calories just from sugar alone. In teaspoons, that’s still 12 teaspoons of added sugar each day. That’s a great start from the average 22 or more teaspoons those of us in the US would typically have daily, but we can certainly do and feel better when we take it to the limits and sprinkle sparingly.
One thing to also be on the lookout for with this news is the addition of artificial sweeteners being added to EVERYTHING! The label may claim to be ‘less sugar’, ‘no sugar added’, or ‘lower in sugar’, but don’t buy it! I mean that figuratively and literally! DO NOT BUY THESE FAKE FOODS! Like fat was villainized in the 80’s and 90’s, thus we pumped sugar into everything, fat will certainly start to make a comeback, but I imagine the use of artificial sugar will also surge. Beware!
Nourishing tip – Buy all of your foods in their real, whole, plain form to avoid question. From yogurt (Greek or not), to breakfast cereals (think cooked grains like steel cut oats, barley, quinoa, or basmati rice) sweeten them yourself with whole fruit first – honey, molasses or maple syrup if you must. You could even try your hand at growing stevia in your windowsill for an added touch of sweetness in lemon water or tea.
For the first time in a number of years, the Dietary Guidelines removed the goal of limiting total cholesterol in foods to less than 300mg daily. While they dropped this longstanding guideline due to lack of evidence that suggests cholesterol in foods causes our total cholesterol to go up, they do include other advice that help to support overall heart health.
We’ve known for years that cholesterol in food ≠ cholesterol in our body. What does have more of an impact, most likely, is how much or how little plant foods we consume daily. This is why the recommendation to fill at least half your plate, bowl, cup, dish, pizza, taco, fork, spoon, or hands with fruits and vegetables at each meal or snack. The committee also recommends including a variety of protein foods so that animals aren’t all that we’re eating. Beans, nuts, seeds and legumes can provide just as much protein per meal, but also provide the beneficial cholesterol lowering fiber and phytonutrients that may help to prevent or reverse heart disease, type II diabetes, obesity and other lifestyle disease.
Nourishing tip – Plan your meal around your plant foods and use meat as a treat or side dish. You’ll save money, pack in more volume for fewer calories, and walk away from the table feeling fuller, with more energy and way more nutrients to keep your body in tip top shape.
When you do have meat, choose a variety or protein sources. Try to have seafood, lake, or stream food at least 2 times weekly (think catfish, trout, or wild caught salmon). When you purchase pork and beef, make friends with a local farmer to try and find those that have been pastured or grass fed. If you have poultry or eggs, purchase those that you know were given room to roam on the range. No one enjoys being cooped up their entire life. (Pun much intended there)!
There’s much more to read about the guidelines and you can check them out here. We’d love to know what you think about and how you do or don’t incorporate the Dietary Guidelines into your eating pattern.