I’m sure you’ve seen on some news and/or social media outlet that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines are out! I thought I would a post to a) share with you all what that means and 2) use this post as a means to force myself to read them in pain staking detail (ugh, you’re welcome).
First and foremost this edition of the guidelines is focused on prevention of chronic disease versus treatment. Which is fitting now that 117 million people have chronic diseases that are related in some way to poor diet, and/or physicals inactivity AND these diseases that are PREVENTABLE.
First some background – since 1980 The Dietary Guidelines for Americans has been published every five years. The DGA’s are a joint venture by the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) and the USDA. The guidelines are used for research purposes (i.e. prioritizing needs for research), policy making, and for medical/nutrition professionals to make recommendations to patients.
The Guidelines have evolved from having the goal of reducing vitamin deficiencies, and having a really specific focus on 1 or 2 nutrients or food groups, to to now preventing these chronic diseases that are so related to lack of physical activity and poor diet.
- These guidelines promote an overall focus on the total picture of an individual’s diet, not just a few individual pieces.
- This set of guidelines focuses more on “shifts” (I feel like this is maybe their new “buzzword”) in terms of behavior change rather than big giant overhauls (which are less likely to last)
- And pretty much all of us can benefit from making healthy eating a priority throughout our lifetime, so whether you start at age two (because of your parents), or start at 20, or 40, it’s never too late to change focus and start making these “shifts”
- Limit added sugars- especially by making more nutritious beverage choices
- Limit added sodium (the average intake of sodium is 3440 mg/day)
- Limit saturated & trans fats
- They continue to support low fat choices (which negates the added sodium recommendations
- They continue to suggest processed oils like canola oil instead of using butter and coconut oil in small amounts – which I continue to disagree with.
- Implement a variety of vegetables of all subgroups, and include beans
- I mean this hasn’t really changed, but again they continue to promote variety of colorful fruits, and vegetables as well as incorporation of plant proteins
- Increase physical activity
- From 2008 to 2013 physical activity rates have increased (between both males and females) but not by much.
- The guidelines also discuss how psychosocial and cost factors play a role in this. Which I think is important for MD’s more than RD’s. It’s been my experience that RD’s are a lot more in touch with patient’s barriers than MD’s are.
- They are trying to get away from the term “diet” and use eating pattern in its place to describe an individual’s overall intake in a habitual sense (so yes, it is synonymous with diet). But whatever, we’re all PC now.
- Eggs are “ok”
- Coffee is also “ok” – provided there’s no added sugar
- As healthcare providers we need to empower people to think in terms of nutrition quality (and actively teach people what this is), versus looking at just the calorie count.
- I mean – I can’t agree more.
- The guideline go as far to point out that healthy eating needs to be a shift not just with one person, but really that everyone we come into contact with can have a role in promoting better nutrition.
- This is an area I would like to see expanded a lot in 2020. Because in order for this to happen the “average person” needs to have some foundation of nutrition knowledge. And if you read my blog, you know I am a big believer in the Registered Dietitian as THE nutrition professional. With this guideline brings forward a lot of controversy in the sense of who is sharing what message? It’s one thing for a “Health Coach” to encourage people to eat vegetables, it’s entirely another for them to talk about how much fiber, or vitamins someone needs.
Some things I personally want you to take away
- These guidelines are meant for medical and nutrition practitioners – so while the media tears down these DGA’s, let’s remember our target audience it’s RD’s, MD’s, etc These guidelines are not intended to necessarily be read by the general public. My point here is the media is chastising these DGAs as being vague when they say “less added sugar” and “less added sodium”, expect when I read that I see: less sugar sweetened drinks, and less processed foods
- The guidelines emphasize fish a lot, which is not a bad thing. The media is taking A LOT of time to question if beef lobbyists were influencing the decision for the committee to not make conclusive statements on beef.
- I’m a realist, and while that could potentially be true. What also could be at play here is insufficient evidence – that beef is really that awful. This get’s us back into the great bacon debacle from the summer when we discussed is red meat the problem? Or is it the processing of these meats and the methods and additives used? Hopefully in 2020 this area will be significantly less wishy washy. The topic of limiting processed meat is touched on but again I would have liked this highlighted a bit more.
- The media is really enjoying highlighting that the Obama administration released these guidelines. While appointments of office may have been made by Obama in his administration, Obama, Michelle nor his Cabinet wrote these guidelines. Remember this is a joint venture by the DHHS and USDA (which is why I acknowledge appointments to office). But come on – these guidelines have been around since the Carter administration (if you require a history lesson, he was the president before Reagan).
- As I mentioned above the guidelines are pretty negating of each other in some areas – suggesting a diet with little added sodium, then encouraging low fat dairy (Higher in added sodium).
In closing, I don’t think these guidelines are perfect. I think if you compare our guidelines (US) to that of other countries – i.e. Brazil you will find we tend to over complicate things. I think the DGA’s continue to make strides, however not as quickly as I would like, and with some of these recommendations I find myself wondering “why bother?”