An update of guidelines for a healthy America is now under way, with the establishment of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee by the U.S. departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture. The 15-member committee’s recommendations, following public meetings and scientific review, will serve as a basis for the eighth edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Updated and published jointly by HHS and USDA every five years, the congressionally mandated guidelines are the foundation for national nutrition programs, standards and education. They also provide key recommendations for the general population and specific groups, such as pregnant women, to promote choices for an overall healthy diet. The 2015 update comes amid years-long, and still growing, concern about the health of Americans.
“Americans are experiencing an epidemic of overweight and obesity. Poor diet and physical inactivity also are linked to major causes of illness and death. To correct these problems, many Americans must make significant changes in their eating habits and lifestyles,” Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a joint statement at the release of the 2010 Guidelines. “Today, more than ever, consumers need sound advice to make informed food and activity decisions.”
Children under 2 years are exempt from the guidelines. Officials attribute this to unique nutritional needs and eating patterns of the age group, stemming from the “wide variance” in the age group’s developmental stages. Steps are now being taken to identify the key issues applicable to this age group in order to develop appropriate dietary guidance. Officials hope to have the guidelines address Americans of all ages, starting from birth, by 2020.
In the meantime, the 2010 guidelines are in effect, with three major goals for Americans: balance calories with physical activity to manage weight; consume more of certain foods and nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood; and consume fewer foods with sodium (salt), saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars and refined grains. They recommend the following:
Foods to reduce
• Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams; further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older, and those of any age who are African-American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children.
• Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
• Consume less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol.
• Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats.
• Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.
• Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars and sodium.
• If alcohol is consumed, it should be done in moderation — up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men — and only by adults of legal drinking age.
Foods and nutrients to increase
• Increase vegetable and fruit intake.
• Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green and red and orange vegetables, and beans and peas.
• Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains.
• Increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages.
• Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
• Increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed.
• Replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories and/or are sources of oils.
• Use oils to replace solid fats where possible.
• Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets.