New 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
The latest science in health and nutrition
By Sarah Martin
National Nutrition Month is the perfect time to discuss the new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Every five years, physicians, dietitians, and other experts analyze the latest science in health and nutrition and provide updated recommendations for healthy eating patterns. The DGA also inform programs such as Head Start, National School Lunch, and congregate dining.
This year, there were a few changes. The most significant was the addition of early life stages, and now include guidance for pregnant and lactating women, infants, and toddlers. As these are critical times in growth and development, it is vitally important to provide the public and healthcare professionals with consistent, evidence-based nutrition recommendations for these populations.
The DGA report emphasizes the importance of varying our protein sources, consuming more whole grains, and eating more veggies. The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) shows us what most Americans are eating. Overall, while we tend to eat plenty of protein and grains, we should try to adjust the forms we choose. Most of our grain consumption is in the form of refined grains, such as white bread. The recommendation is to make at least half our grains whole. This means consuming more whole wheat breads and pastas, oatmeal, brown rice, and other foods that specify “whole grain” on the package.
Most of us eat enough protein, but mainly in the form of meat, eggs, and poultry. While these are quality sources especially in low-fat forms, so are nuts, seeds, beans, tofu, and seafood. Neglecting these choices denies our bodies of their unique benefits, such as fiber or heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
For veggies, simply consuming more of a variety would be a great start! Veggies are nutrient powerhouses. They contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals, plus phytochemicals that fight disease. Veggies can be eaten fresh, frozen, or canned. You might try out different colors, by “eating the rainbow,” to maximize the variety of nutrients you are getting.
The recommendations for sugar, sodium, saturated fat, and alcohol all remained the same. Alcohol should be limited to one drink per day for women and two drinks for men. Added sugars should be no more than 10 percent of our calories, as should saturated fat. That’s about 200 calories for most people, or 20g of saturated fat and 50g of added sugar. Sodium should be limited to 2300mcg. This information can all be found on the nutrition facts label.
Overall, the DGA encourages adopting a healthy eating pattern — choosing a variety of nutrient-dense foods, most of the time. Increasing our consumption of whole grains, lean proteins, and veggies may seem like a big goal, but any of these changes can be slowly incorporated into our habits over time. This isn’t a race! Changing our breads and pastas to whole grain forms, swapping some meat for nuts or beans, and adding a few veggies to our snacks and meals puts us on a path to better compliance with the DGA guidelines and a healthier life. Download the full report www.dietaryguidelines.gov.
Sarah Martin is a registered dietitian who resides in Buffalo and enjoys writing about nutrition, health, and wellness. Visit bodyandspiritnutrition.com for recipes, nutrition tips, and more. Email Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.