By Monique Richard MS, RDN, LDN
You may have heard some buzz about the 2015 dietary guidelines, which were just released, albeit a little late. The guidelines are developed every five years to be a guide for American consumers, healthcare professionals, and institutions regarding dietary recommendations, based on the most conclusive evidence-based science and comprehensive findings. The Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee (DGAC), comprised of a panel of experts with an expansive background in nutrition science, reviews the research and makes recommendations in a very inclusive report prior to the guidelines being published.
Unfortunately, some major points were ignored and overlooked from the report that did not make it into these guidelines (translation: politics. Take Action by voting and speaking up.) It is said that true health-care reform starts in your kitchen, not in Washington, and I couldn’t agree more. We are our own best advocates for health and wellbeing related to nutrition (as well as the bigger picture, like our environment, water, animals, and fellow humans).
The basic recommendations have not dramatically changed. Please remember, too, that nutrition science is ever-evolving, and we are finding out new information on a daily basis; therefore, recommendations may change slightly. That’s no reason to throw it all out the window though, as there are some things that will never change that most of us can improve upon as individuals (i.e. getting enough water).
Cholesterol recommendations have been removed this time around, but it does not mean that cholesterol in foods does not matter. Dietary cholesterol (the kind we eat and don’t make) only accounts for 10-20% of our number, but it is also important to note that along with dietary cholesterol usually come saturated fat, sodium and other components we are trying to limit for various well-founded reasons.
Be very cautious about folks who may capitalize on these slight changes and clump the science together as a whole with headlines like, “Butter is back!”or “Bacon and eggs are what’s for breakfast; dietary cholesterol doesn’t matter.” We have overwhelming evidence that the more nutrient-dense foods—foods lower in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar as well as foods that are closest to the form they were found here on earth—are healthier for human health overall. Working with an expert to understand the details of these findings is key to your own health, versus throwing the baby out with the bathwater and thinking it is all irrelevant. It all does matter. No reason to be frustrated or confused; I am here to help.
Let’s break down and highlight some of the key guidelines:
1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Translation: A healthy pattern is going to be one that is nutrient-dense, choosing foods that have lots of nutrients versus calories, which is ‘energy-dense’ and may be converted or stored as fat easier.
What it means to you and your family’s plate: Be sure to include:
• A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
• Fruits, especially whole fruits
• Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
• Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
• A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
• Oils (like safflower, non-GMO canola, and olive oil)
Take Action: Schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to know what your individual calories, nutrient needs, and nutritional status is regarding your current health and activity. I have a few additional caveats that I would highlight within these recommendations and focus on.
2. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.
Translation: Choose to make soda, sweet tea, juice, chips, cookies, desserts, processed foods, convenient and fast-foods more of a treat and no longer a daily staple or a part of every meal.
Take Action: Substitute and replace these treats with whole fruits or vegetables, whole grains like popcorn, or simply drinking water when you think you may need a snack. An RDN can also help you find appropriate substitutions, choices, and ideas to help making switching easier and delicious.
3. Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.
Translation: It is everyone’s responsibility to support an environment where healthy food is accessible and affordable and to educate on: cooking skills, health concerns related to inadequate nutrition, and ways to support each other’s health. It is the responsibility of food manufacturers, restaurants, schools, hospitals, healthcare professionals, governing bodies, organizations, recreational facilities, towns, cities, states, farmers, stores, social venues, churches, and each and every individual.
Take Action: Propose healthier ideas for social events, fundraisers, or community gatherings related to food. Create alternatives to gatherings focused around food. Come together to address hunger and malnutrition in your own community. Trade in eating contests for ending hunger contests and be an advocate for your own health as well as your neighbor’s.
Key Recommendations on specific nutrients:
Limit or eliminate saturated fats and trans-fats, added sugars, and sodium
Translation: Processed foods, convenience foods, animal products, and sweetened beverages like soda, sports drinks, juice and sweet tea are typically going to have an excess of one or more of these components that we want to limit or eliminate from our diets.
Take Action: It goes back to consuming more whole foods, meaning fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and healthy fats, along with good, clean, beneficial water.
Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars
Translation: If you are on a 2,000 calorie diet, 10% is equivalent to 12 teaspoons of sugar a day which is equivalent to one, 12 ounce soda. A child may need 1000 calories, which is 5 teaspoons of added sugar; an 8 ounce glass of chocolate milk has 5-8 teaspoons of sugar in it.
Take Action by: Eating more vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains and allowing convenience foods to be more of a treat, an accessory, rather than the bulk of what you are eating.
Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats
Translation: If you are on a 2,000 calorie diet, 10% is equivalent to 200 calories or 22g of saturated fat per day. A 6 ounce portion of sausage has 17g of saturated fat.
Take Action: Eat more plant-based foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Plants, other than coconut oil, for the most part, are very, very low in saturated fat and high in mono and polyunsaturated fats which helps with your HDL, or good cholesterol, is anti-inflammatory and has a plethora of other benefits.
Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium
Translation: One cup (size of your fist) of canned tomato soup has almost 500mg of sodium; that 6 ounce portion of sausage we referenced earlier, has 1441mg of sodium, and 1 slice of pizza has 640mg. If you have diabetes, heart disease, and other health conditions the recommendation for sodium may be 1,500mg. Bottom line, it adds up very quickly, especially when consuming processed foods or heavily salted foods or recipes often used in restaurants and fast-food places.
Take Action: I know, it’s repetitive, but it’s worth repeating, eat more plants like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Cook more at home so you can control the ingredients. Eat more potassium rich (fruits and vegetables) foods to offset sodium intake.
There you have it, some updates and slight changes regarding the dietary guidelines, but also some additional information and insight from your dietitian. We can customize a plan that works for you and your needs and we can be partners in advocating for your best health!
http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/executive-summary/ Accessed January 26, 2016.
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