The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Guidelines are reviewed and revised every five years by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which is comprised of scientists and experts in nutrition from all over the country. A lot of the controversy surrounding the guidelines stems from these committee members allegedly basing their decisions not on scientific evidence, but on their financial ties to the food industry.
Based on my experience, consumers don’t think their daily eating is swayed by the dietary guidelines. But they are extremely important because they influence food policy across several sectors that affect millions. This includes food assistance programs such as SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and WIC, and the massive National School Lunch Program.
While the new guidelines are not expected to be published until closer to the end of the year, the scientific summary was recently released and provides a glimpse of what we might see. Below is a very brief glimpse of the recommendations that were included in the summary:
- Increase intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes
- Maintain a moderate intake of low- and non-fat dairy products and alcohol
- Decrease intake of red and processed meat; salt
- Decrease intake of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages; refined grains
- A low-fat diet for healthy individuals is no longer recommended, but saturated fats should be reduced. That means healthy fats such as those found in nuts and avocados are finally getting recognized.
- Recommendations on dietary cholesterol have been dropped. Egg and shrimp lovers rejoice!
Do you disagree with any of these recommendations or feel that something is missing? You are in luck. Public commenting has been extended until tomorrow. And, if interested, you can read all of the public comments including those from different food industry sectors.
Personally, I am agreement with the proposed changes and updates, and I’m anxious to see how the public comments ultimately affect the final guidelines. As an RD working in communications, I can also see the challenge that lies ahead for industries that might be negatively affected by the report and know that they will need to rely on any scientific evidence that positively supports their industry.