Many people in the United States consume a diet high in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, salt, and alcohol. These unhealthy dietary patterns are putting many people at risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer, which have become the leading causes of death in the United States. The Dietary Guidelines are the foundation of the United States government’s nutrition policy and education. Every 5 years, they are revised to keep up with current research. These guidelines were created to help people meet nutrient needs, as well as reduce the risk of obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, alcoholism, and food borne illness.
The Dietary Guidelines are designed to help Americans make improvements towards eating a healthier diet. It recommends following healthy eating patterns throughout the entire lifespan. It is important to make healthy choices with both food and beverages. Many people do not realize a large portion of their calorie intake comes from beverages such as soda and fruit juices.
To help maintain a healthy body weight, obtain essential nutrients and reduce the risk of disease try to follow a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level. You should also try to focus on variety, nutrient density and amount. It is important to choose a variety of foods from each food group because different foods contain different amounts of essential nutrients. Foods that are nutrient-dense provide vitamins, minerals, and other substances that contribute to good health. These foods are typically low in saturated fat, added sugar, refined starch, and sodium. Try to limit calories from added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.
A healthy eating pattern includes several vegetables from all subgroups. These include dark green, red, and orange, legumes such as beans and peas and starchy vegetables. All frozen, canned, dried or fresh vegetables can be part of a healthy diet. If choosing vegetables that are canned or frozen, avoid those with high sodium content, butter or creamy sauces.
Fruits are another important part of a healthy diet, especially whole fruits. A whole piece of fruit is a better choice than fruit juice because it contains far more nutrients and less added sugar.
When choosing grain products, make sure at least half are from whole grain sources. These include brown rice, oats, quinoa, and whole wheat flour. Limit refined grains that may be high in saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium such as cookies, cakes, and some snack foods.
When choosing dairy products such as milk, yogurt or cheese, aim for the low fat or fat-free products. A variety of protein foods should be included in the diet. Seafood, lean meat, eggs, legumes (beans and peas) nuts, seeds and soy products are all good options.
Oils are also part of a healthy diet because they are a major source of essential fatty acids and vitamins E. Healthy oils are extracted from plants such as safflower, soybean, olive, sunflower, corn, and peanut oil. These oils can be found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and seafood. Oils should replace solid fats such as butter or margarine. Oils are better for your health and contain less trans and saturated fat. They are higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, which are heart-healthy fats.
When implementing The Dietary Guidelines, be realistic and make small changes at a time. Be willing to try new, different foods regularly. Be flexible and create a balance of healthy food, while still enjoying some of your favorite foods in small portions. Lastly, physical activity is important to maintain a healthy weight and keep yourself free from disease.
Byrd, C., Berning, J., Kelley, d., & Moe, G., (n.d.). Wardlaw’s Perspectives in Nutrition. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Wardlaws-Perspectives-Nutrition-Byrd-Bredbenner-Professor/dp/1259709981