2015 Dietary Guidelines: In a Nutshell


For those who are not aware, last week the long awaited Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 were finally released. Every 5 years, the United States federal government releases these updated and revised dietary guidelines to guide policy on all levels, as well as individual decisions and eating patterns. Although some of the more controversial items were successfully lobbied out of the document, what’s nice about these new Guidelines are the greater amount of practical suggestions and visuals showing portion sizes which are very helpful, as well as the greater emphasis on healthy nutrition with physical activity following the Physical Activity Guidelines.

Here are the actual Guidelines (taken directly from the official website):

  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.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.
  3. 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.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
  5. 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.

So what’s worth noting? Here is a small snapshot of some of the information and resources contained within this key document:

  • Current picture in the United States
    • Eating patterns tend to be low in fruits, vegetables, dairy and oils, but exceed recommendations for calories, salt, sugar, and saturated fats.
    • Only about 1 in 5 adults are meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.
    • Key nutrients underconsumed by many individuals (in amounts below the Estimated Average Requirement or Adequate Intake levels) are potassium, dietary fiber, choline, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, D, E, and C, as well as iron (for 19-50 year old women).
  • More emphasis on Healthy Eating Patterns
    • Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern
    • Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern
    • Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern
  • Helpful resources include
    • Tables on estimated calorie needs and nutritional goals calculated based on specific factors such as age and gender
    • List of available federal resources and links on nutrition and physical activity
    • Tables on food sources (from most to least) of potassium, fiber, calcium, vitamin D

The table provided in the appendix section on the Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern with its different calorie levels, in particular, is a great tool to help oneself and the whole family gradually shift towards a healthier plant based diet, reducing chronic disease risk while still meeting key nutrient needs.

(Source: Department of Health and Human Services and United States Department of Agriculture, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, 8th edition. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines.  Accessed January 12, 2016.)


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