Making a SHIFT: A Review of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans


Welcome, 2016! The new year is off to a busy start. Last week, just in time for the beginning of 2016, the updated 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) were released!

Originally released in 1980, with updates every 5 years, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) were created to guide health professionals and aid in new policy development and programs. Reputable guidelines were developed, encouraging Americans to follow science-based diet recommendations to improve our overall diet and lifestyle, reduce obesity rates and prevent chronic diseases like hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

So what does this mean for you as a consumer or individual trying to make healthy choices for you and your family? Below I will outline the five primary guidelines and key recommendations as given by the USDA and HHS, followed by important take away messages and practical implementation for your family.



The New Guidelines:

  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.

New Key Recommendations:

Consume a healthy eating pattern that accounts for all foods and beverages within an appropriate calorie level. A healthy eating pattern includes:

  • A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
  • Oils

A healthy eating pattern limits:

  • Saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium

Quantitative Recommendations:

  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.
  • Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium.
  • If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age.

Also see the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans designed for children, adolescents, adults and the elderly to help promote health and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Although there are several shifts that can be made to one’s diet, it is important to remember that every aspect of your diet does not have to be changed today. By making small SHIFTS with each food choice, diet transformation becomes much more manageable.

Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • Find new ways to incorporate veggies at lunch, dinner and even snack time.  Did you know it is estimated that 9 out of 10 people do not consume the appropriate amount of vegetables daily? Break the statistic!
  • Fruit for dessert! A great way to cut back on added sugar is to replace desserts or sweet foods with a fresh fruit of your choice.
  • Choose water or an unsweetened beverage (unsweetened tea) rather than your traditional soda to help cut back on added sugar.
  • Opt for 90 % lean/10% fat ground meats rather than 80% lean/20% fat, moving towards 93% lean/ 7% fat.
  • Consuming grains that are made with refined flour? Try a 100% whole wheat bread, opt for brown rice, or purchase a whole wheat pasta for your family to try. **TIP** The first word on the ingredient list should be whole.
  • It is estimated that over fifty percent of American's consume more sodium than suggested. If buying canned vegetables, look for "No Salt Added" options. Try spices and fresh herbs in meals rather than using the salt shaker.
  • Is fish incorporated in your weekly meal planning? What about beans, nuts and seeds? Try grilling or baking salmon and/or tuna 1-2 times per week, create a bean based soup, or add nuts and seeds to your salad or snack. These items are loaded with nutrients and create variety in our protein intake.
  • Replace solid fats with oils: Coconut, palm and palm kernel oils are considered solid fats due to the high content of saturated fat, making it solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are known to increase cholesterol in our bodies. Go for heart healthy canola or olive oils, as well as increasing foods such as nuts and seafood.

One last tip for making simple shifts in your diet with the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to focus on MyPlate meal set-ups at each meal. Try following a Mediterranean diet pattern which includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, fish and healthy fats, just like noted above. Incorporate at least 3-4 food groups at each meal, filling in missed meal components at snacks. Focus on small components at each meal and watch your eating pattern be transformed!

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have been anxiously awaited here at Lemond Nutrition. We are excited to share them with you and look forward to a great year full of maintainable diet and lifestyle shifts for you and your family. Let us know what shifts you make! 


Also see: Top 10 Things You Need to Know About the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

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