Since 1980, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture have jointly published nutrition guidelines for the general public. In 2008 the guidelines were 19 pages long and covered 7 succinct topics; eat a variety of foods, maintain ideal weight, avoid too much fat, eat foods with adequate fiber, avoid too much sugar, avoid too much sodium and if you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
Over the years, the guidelines continue to address similar topics, but the basis of these more specific recommendations has been increasingly derived from scientific evidence that constitutes a comprehensive document spanning more than 200 pages.
The guideline development process is multi-faceted. First, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, comprised of leading nutrition experts, is assigned the task of reviewing the world’s literature on diet and health that has accumulated over the previous five years. It is on the basis of the advisory committee’s systematic review that the DGAs are derived. The DGAs continue to focus on disease prevention and helping Americans age 2 and older shift towards healthy eating patterns.
Why Should We Pay Attention to Making Healthy Choices?
As described in the background information in the DGA, healthy eating patterns are associated with better health outcomes. Healthy eating patterns are tied to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other diseases, including colon cancer and breast cancer, overweight and obesity. Recent evidence even suggests a link between healthy eating patterns and decreased risk of cognitive and congenital disorders. It is anticipated that additional research regarding these and other subjects will contribute to stronger evidence in future reviews.
The Five Guidelines
The 2015-2020 DGA issued five overarching guidelines to help families and communities develop healthy eating patterns, which include:
Choose a healthy eating pattern across your whole life span to maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of disease.
Choose a variety of nutrient dense foods from all food groups, in recommended amounts to meet nutrient needs in a healthy way.
Choose foods that limit calories from added sugar and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake.
Choose healthy foods and beverages in all food groups instead of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to support shifts that are easier to maintain.
Recognize that everyone has a role in supporting healthy choices for families and communities, both locally and nationwide.