The Department of Health and Human Services, along with the US Department of Agriculture, publish dietary guidelines to help keep Americans on the right track when it comes to eating in order to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Every five years, these are reviewed and changed. The dietary guidelines suggested by the government have been a part of American life in one form or another for more than a century. And over that time, these suggestions have changed with the research into diet. Dietary recommendations help the government make decisions about food benefits, school lunches, and all the food-related stuff in between.
The last set of guidelines published in 2010 focused on salt, sugar, physical activity, and balancing calories. You’ll also remember the switch from food pyramid to a plate icon, which was influenced by the 2010 report. This year, we could see even more changes. Over the course of the year, nutrition experts and medical experts meet, scientific recommendations are made, public and agency comments are considered. Then, a finalized version of the guidelines is published. This year, the USDA is introducing a few changes that will make us (hopefully) healthier and happier. Here’s the rundown of some of the changes that are expected to be rolled out in fall.
Eat Less Meat
While we’ve been told to eat plenty of lean protein, this year we could see a big change where meat is involved: namely eat less of it. There’s a subcommittee for “Food Sustainability and Safety” contributing to this year’s discussion. Some environmental concerns may be taken into account for this year’s report, and meat eaters are responsible for the sizable carbon footprint that comes with production of our steaks, chicken fingers, and bacon. This is bad news for the meat industry, but good news for vegetarians and their animal friends.
Cut Out That Sugar
There hasn’t really been a solid number on how much sugar we should be eating. A lot of health nuts have known for a long time that added sugars are a no no, but unfortunately for our general health, the power of the sugary snack industry (including major soft drink companies) is immense. This year, we might see an actual recommendation on how little sugar should be consumed – a draft of the guidelines named 50 grams of sugar for someone who does not have diabetes or sugar concerns.
Eat More Fruits and Veggies
Now that meat is (potentially) being downgraded, fruits and veggies can fill the nutrition gap. Your mom always suggested that you add more of these to your diet anyway, but this year you can look forward to a change in the actual food guidelines promoted by the US government.
Think Food, Not Nutrients
A lot of the former editions of the guidelines have been focused on nutrients themselves, instead of something much easier to understand: food. Swap out specifics like “calcium” for laymen terms such as “green vegetables.” This year, there is a sub-committee responsible for “Dietary Patterns, Foods and Nutrients, and Health Outcomes,” which should make for some easier to understand guidelines. Other changes that can come from this committee might be an emphasis on how we eat – together as family units, for example – and how that could contribute to overall health.