Small Changes + DGA Updates
For those of you who aren't nutrition nerds, enthusiasts or total trolls... there is a new release to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. I encourage everyone to take a peek at this, as it is what defines our clinical, evidence based nutrition practice from years 2015-2020, until the next version is released.
First of all, I do not envy the committee that puts this together one bit. They will be ridiculed, questioned, and even hated by many. It is no simple feat to sort through all the nutrition information, science, trends, and health needs of a nation and attempt to sum that up in an easy to digest guideline.
So what is new about the DGA for this 5 year release and why should you care? The relationship between food - health - fitness is highlighted. We can no longer think of these items as separate entities and that is a good thing. Here are the summary points along with my personal view, of the new guidelines.
- 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.
- (My 2 Cents) Yes. Totally agree that the eating pattern you choose largely defines your outcome for overall health throughout life. Your personal nutrition care is a changing spectrum.
- 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.
- (My 2 Cents) My clients know that I am all about the BALANCE. So I am glad to see that nutrient amounts are switched up with actual food recommendations. I do not promote counting this and that, to me, saying 'eat 300mg of ---' means nothing, but saying 'eat a small portion of --- daily' is practical and approachable. I'm happy to see the DGA begin to be more user friendly.
- 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.
- (My 2 Cents) This section of nutrition guidance seemed like a cop-out to me. I think the DGA is attempting to remain too PC and limit real, hard, black and white advice. Limit added sugar and fat.... ok? to? Less than 10% of total calories! Really? Why? Is that right for each person? Not likely, and why are we still lumping sugar and fat together as equally evil? I think we have seen it shown in so many studies that sugar is the real culprit in so many health issues...
- I think this area has the most room for improvement. I'm not a fan of the continued Low Fat trend. Aren't we over that? Don't we know that higher fat dairy and some saturated fats CAN actually be extremely healthful for some? I will continue to drink my whole milk cappuccino daily, thank you very much.
- I think much more needs to be done to say DO NOT EAT ---- specifically instead of beating around the bush and making generic generalizations. Food has gotten out of control and the DGA needs to be more forceful. Do not eat a bacon wrapped pepperoni pizza or a cake made from leftover cereal milk or a cheeseburger with grilled cheese for buns... Do not eat... that should be a focus statement, yet it is sadly lacking. These gluttonous food hybrids are killing us. I'm sure that could be proven in a study. The DGA, however, has no problem calling out specifics like 'drink fortified soy beverages'... really? Fortified Soy? No Thanks.
- 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.
- (My 2 Cents) This is the best part in my opinion, and what I will continue to discuss later in this post... SHIFTS! Healthy ones! Yay! I'm super glad to see the DGA actually pushing towards individual change. What can YOU do to make a positive change in your health/nutrition/fitness? This is a serious question so please answer it.
- 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.
- (My 2 Cents) Again, great addition because this puts responsibility on the individual to create and better environment for themselves. It is possible to make small changes at any level and any setting that will have a positive impact.
In my opinion, the best thing about this new version of the DGA is the practical application advice. Personally, as a dietitian I always am looking for new ways to promote and motivate CHANGE. Most of us know what we SHOULD be doing... at least in some form... but I find that my clients mostly suffer from the inability to put knowledge into action. Let me dwell on that statement a bit. When looking for a nutritionist to help you meet your goals, look for someone who can really assist you in the journey, not just tell you what to do. I'll do another post on finding the right help at another time.
The above photo is a direct shot taken from the DGA 2015-2020. Simple? Yes. But thats really what we need. Small, simple changes... or SHIFTS. I'm a fan.