The USDA releases an updated nutrition and healthy eating guide every five years. At the core of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is eating patterns and the relationship with food and nutrients. The individual goal for this work is to adhere to eating patterns that promote health and prevent chronic disease across a lifespan.
The healthy eating patterns recommended in this 8th edition were developed by integrating findings from systematic reviews of scientific research. In addition, food pattern modeling, and analyses of current intake of the U.S. population were also looked at. The evidence shows that “healthy eating
patterns are associated with positive health outcomes.”
Healthy Eating Pattern Defined
According to the authors of this DGA report, “healthy eating patterns support a healthy body weight. It can also help prevent and reduce the risk of chronic disease throughout periods of growth and development.” An eating pattern represents all the foods and beverages you consume. All foods consumed as part of a healthy eating pattern fit together like a puzzle to meet nutritional needs without exceeding limits. This is especially true in regard to saturated fats, added sugars, sodium, and total calories.
The Five Components Needed
- Follow a Healthy Eating Pattern Across the Lifespan. A healthy eating pattern includes plenty of protein, grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy and oils. It limits saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium.
- Focus on Variety, Nutrient Density, and Amount. Meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.
- Limit Calories from Added Sugars and Saturated Fats and Reduce Sodium Intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.
- Shift to Healthier Food and Beverage Choices. Replace typical food and beverage choices with more nutrient-dense options. Be sure to consider personal preferences to maintain shifts over time.
- Support Healthy Eating Patterns for All. Each one of us can play a major role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings around us. This includes from home to school to work to our communities.
Final Notes on Eating Healthy
A healthy eating pattern, or style, includes the following:
- A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups (dark green, red and orange, legumes, and starches).
- Fruits, especially whole fruit.
- Grains, 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, poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, and soy products.
A healthy eating pattern limits the following:
- Limit saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium. A number of studies have shown an association between increased intake of trans fats and an increase risk of CVD.
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.
- Eat less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.
- Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium.
- Limit consumption of dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day.
- 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).
- Moderate coffee consumption (three to five 8-oz cups/day or providing up to 400 mg/day of caffeine) can be part of healthy eating patterns.
Avoid the Halo Effect
This refers to someone who eats healthy foods but goes overboard on portion sizes. As a result, they end up consuming too many calories for the day. Try the following: protein should be the size of your smartphone, all carbs should be the size of your fist, and fruits and veggies should cover the rest of your plate. This is an easy way to visualize what a healthy meal looks like. Also, you’ve heard, the the more colorful your plate, the more nutrients you’ll be eating.
Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Go Hand-in-Hand.
In addition to having a healthy eating style or pattern, we all need to also meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Regular physical activity is one of the most important things we can do to improve our overall health. Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) and should perform strength training on 2 or more days each week, using the Jefit app to plan, log, track and share your workouts. Stay strong!
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, 8th Edition. USDA: DietaryGuidelines.gov