Every five years, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are required to update guidelines that provide recommendations on nutrition to help adults and children ages 2+ consume a healthy, nutritionally acceptable diet. These guidelines provide the basis for federal food, nutrition and health policies as well as national nutrition education for the public, thus, influencing the diets of millions of Americans. They also shape federal food assistance programs and help determine which foods are chosen for the USDA’s National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.
The guidelines, which were released in January, come just in time to for National Nutrition Month which encourages Americans to eat healthy and well. For many years, the recommendations remained basically the same – including advice to eat more fruits, vegetables and lean meats and to limit alcohol consumption. However, the new guidelines were developed with the understanding that people do not eat food groups and nutrients in isolation, but rather in combination, forming their individual eating patterns. Stemming from extensive research, the 2015-2020 guidelines provide five principles that encourage healthy eating patterns, recognize that individuals will need to make shifts in their food and beverage choices to achieve a healthy pattern, and acknowledge that all segments of our society have a role to play in supporting healthy choices.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that Americans of all ages should focus on increasing physical activity in conjunction with developing more healthy eating patterns. When you aim to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight through nutrition and exercise you’re also reducing your risk for chronic disease. Let’s all work together to ensure more and more people can live long, healthy lives!
If you’re looking to make a change, the CDC offers some great information on initiatives and programs to help. Of course, before making any major adjustments to your diet or exercise plans, be sure to consult with your primary care doctor.