Top 5 Take-Aways from 2015 Dietary Guidelines

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health & Human Services (HHS) issued the 2015-2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans yesterday. The Guidelines get revised every 5 years, and nutrition professionals (like me) have been eagerly awaiting the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, which inform nutrition policy in federal programs and guide the information we provide to clients and patients.

One focus of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines that differs from guidelines of the past is that the 2015 version really focuses on meal patterns and eating styles versus focusing on specific foods and single nutrients. The reason this is valuable is because we eat food–not nutrients–and we eat (hopefully) a variety of foods over the course of the day, week, month and years. Nutrients in foods are not consumed in isolation.

Here are the top 5 take-aways from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

  1. Make half your plate vegetables and fruits. Eat a variety of colors and kinds so you get a plethora of nutrients. It’s the same advice we give our kids.
    How to do this: Add a fruit to breakfast and veggies to lunch and dinner, grab a fruit or veggie for one snack a day and focus on fruit as dessert–most of the time.
  2. Choose whole grains at least half of the time. We know the drill: whole grains contain a boatload more phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber than refined white grains. Plus, dietary fiber helps keep our blood pumping and our bowels moving.
    How to do this: Choose whole grain cereals, pastas, breads and crackers when available and make at least one whole grain a day (e.g., oatmeal for breakfast, quinoa for lunch or barley for dinner).
  3. Reach for fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Forget the headlines from earlier this year advising you to choose full-fat or whole milk dairy. Fat-free and low-fat dairy oftentimes contains more protein and nutrients and less saturated fat than its full-fat cousin. How to do this: Reach for low- or no-added sugars yogurts and milks, and add cinnamon and a little honey to taste.
  4. Mix up your protein foods. Variety is the spice of life, especially when it comes to eating protein. Don’t forget about nutrient powerhouse protein players like fish, shellfish, beans and nuts/seeds, which provide nutrients we miss out on when eating a grilled chicken breast every day. How to do this: Sub in salmon when making burgers, tuna when making quesadillas, beans when making soups and pastas and nuts/seeds when making grain dishes.
  5. Cut back on sodium, saturated fat and added sugars. There’s no doubt… we Americans have trained our taste buds to crave salty, sweet and fatty tastes. But, too much of these can be a recipe for expanding waistlines and increased risk for chronic diseases. How to do this: Processed and packaged foods are typically loaded with salt, added sugars and saturated fat. Cut back on the amount of processed foods you eat, and you’ll automatically reduce your intake of salt, added sugars and saturated fat.

The bottom line? Reach for whole, unprocessed foods most of the time, and eat a variety of those foods.

For more information, check out the Dietary Guidelines or MyPlate.

PLEASE SHARE: What are your thoughts on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines? Please share… I’d love to hear from you! And, happy new year!