US Dietary Guidelines - A Dietitian’s Take
As you may have heard by now, the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) have been officially released. While the majority of Seattleites may not be able to recite specific recommendations or changes that were made, the Guidelines still play a large role in our day to day diets. The Seattle School District’s school lunches, our supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) and the My Plate education programs are all heavily influenced by these Guidelines. So what’s new this time around?
Eating Patterns vs. Nutrient Values
I applaud the DGAs for attempting to focus on foods and dietary patterns instead of on confusing nutrient values. For example, the Guidelines recommend that Americans, “shift to healthier food and beverage choices.” They also encourage Americans to eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Seattleites can easily reach this goal by visiting local farmers markets or joining a local Community Supported Agriculture program to get more fruits and vegetables on their dinner tables.
Another new recommendation (although consistent with the World Health Organization’s previous report) is to limit our intake of added sugars to no more than 10% of our total calorie intake. This means limiting sugar-sweetened foods such as candies and cookies and beverages such as energy drinks and soda in your diet. Instead work on finding snacks with low sugar such as granola and drinking more water. But water needs to be more easily accessible and available in our city. Try finding a drinking fountain in CenturyLink, it’s hard work!
Room for Improvement
Disappointing however is how the Guidelines resort back to their old ways when making recommendations around what they want us to limit. Suddenly, instead of talking about specific foods, they instead switch back to referring to certain nutrients. For example, they tell us to “limit saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, and sodium”. However when we eat out, we don’t order “saturated fat” off the menu. Nor do we go grocery shopping and put “sodium” into our shopping cart. The truth is that many Americans don’t know that meats tend to be high in saturated fats or that added sugars are most widely consumed in sodas and sweetened beverages. The recommendations, would better serve our population if they clearly stated specific foods that we should limit. If you’re curious about foods and beverages you should limit for a healthy, balanced diet, talk with your primary care provider or a local dietitian.